The Cat's Last Meow by Mandy Broughton by Mandy Broughton - Read Online

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Summary

Being a vet, Dr. Heidi Knack already has trouble with disorderly patients and their overbearing owners. But when the beloved cat of a miserly old man is poisoned, it’s up to Heidi to find out who did it. As she’s desperately trying to save her license and appease her best paying patient, she stumbles upon another victim—this time a human. It’s murder, mystery, and mayhem—can she solve the case before she’s the next victim?

Published: Mandy Broughton on
ISBN: 9780989497596
List price: $0.99
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The Cat's Last Meow - Mandy Broughton

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Broughton

I

Never much of a fantasy fan, I knew one thing for certain: Odell Greenry loved Precious every bit as much as Gollum loved his precious. And while both objects of obsession could be possessed neither could be mastered.

Poisoned! He shoved the cat at me. 

Poisoned? I re-entered the here-and-now. Why poisoned? The roomful of sycophants hung on my every word, awaiting my judgment. Unlike Gollum, old Odell had money—lots of it—which attracted hangers-on. And I, as the cat expert, received sycophantism by proxy.

Is the cat ill or not? Another voice. Hmm—round face, flat nose. Mental dredging produced a name—Raul—and occupation—accountant.

I knew the routine. Frowning, I laid Precious on the exam table that stood in for her shrine to examine the hairless brute yet again. Of course she struggled, so I took charge. Like a jackhammer to concrete, that was the approach she understood.

Well? Raul, arms folded, tapped a manicured finger on the sleeve of his suit. Quite a well-paid accountant, I surmised, judging by his attire, even if he reminded me of a feral hog. Looked down his snout at me, too. Why would he ask about the health of a cat he clearly hated?

I stroked Precious. She’s fine.

Hearing that, she swiped me twice with her blades. Oops, this was one critter I shouldn’t pet.

I could feel the tension leave the room. When I glanced around, seeing that I knew all the party-goers from my weekly feline ministrations brought a sick thought. Did that make me a sycophant too?

Nope, not possible. I surveyed the crowd again. The old man’s lawyer stood over his wheelchair like a gargoyle ready to pounce. Odell did love his money, so of course he loved having the lawyer around who helped him keep it. The accountant? Not so much. The accountant only counted beans. As for the gargoyle, I didn't know its name. All I knew was that he was huge, so huge he made me want to whisper when he was around.

Then there was Halyn with her rag, dusting the corner shelf. Could be the perfect witch, Halyn. Attractive, black hair, long face, a spell-caster disguised as a live-in housekeeper. Even her dusting resembled magic, casting the grime away. Had to be how she survived working for the old miser, weaving her spells. What kind of a name was it, Halyn? Made up, no doubt. Couldn’t be her true one.

The Senior Brigade twittered in another corner. Not social-media twittering, either. All a-flutter over nothing. Couldn’t bother catching their names, I simply thought of them as Red, White, and Blue. Hair color, of course. The only other characteristic I knew was that one brought Odell food; one ate most of it, and the last fluffed up his cushions. Why they visited the old man every day escaped me, since he was as rude to them as he was to his other underlings.

And then there was old Moneybags's nephew—Kento. I knew him because Odell constantly blamed him, by name, for all the world’s ills. Hard to spot, easy to miss, Kento was generally forgotten until things went wrong. Like a mouse in a cage with a python, Kento cowered, holding something in a large picture frame close. 

I sighed. It was time for a diagnosis, which Odell wasn’t going to like. No point delaying. The cat’s perfectly fine.

Poppycock! Odell shouted.

Used to it by now, still I cringed. Heidi Knack, doctor of veterinary medicine and concierge animal doc, I put up with a lot.

I tugged my ringing ear. She's a healthy eighteen-year-old cat. As I relocated the ugly brute from the exam table to Odell's lap, my hand must have pressed her belly, because she flinched.

See there? Odell screeched again. If she was fine, she wouldn’t twitch like that. She's ill, I tell you! Poisoned! His face, usually gray, was flushed from shouting.

Hold everything, old man, I said. Bring your voice down to where it won’t deafen the canines, and turn up your hearing aid. Reluctantly, I put Precious back on the exam table for a third time.

Odell glowered. Don't need a new hearing aid, need a new vet.

Didn't say you needed a new aid. I said TURN IT UP. I palpated the cat’s abdomen again—no reaction.

When Precious snarled, I resisted the urge, barely, to whack her. No other vet in Texas would come out weekly to attend this monster.

Odell rapped on the arm of his chair and the gargoyle wheeled him close to the exam table. New vet, young lady, Odell growled, new vet.

More money, old miser, more money, I growled back.

Hmph! He blew his stale coffee breath my way.

I felt all around Precious's abdomen. She didn't exactly flinch, but she did squirm, so I cradled her close trying not to get skewered. Didn’t work. Vampire cat, I rubbed my bleeding hand.

Look, she's fine, I said. What are you feeding her?

Odell glared. I’ve told you, she needs real food.

I shook my head. Nope. She's a cat. She needs cat food. She’s off her diet, isn’t she?

The old man smiled. She eats what a warrior cat needs.

Warrior cat? Why did I bother to ask? So, what does a warrior eat?

Halyn spoke up. Bacon. And squab.

I planted my fists on my hips. Squab? Bacon? I should add an idiot surcharge to my fees. Are you really that ignorant?

She’s depressed, Odell said. She needs to hunt, and she feels bad when she can’t.

Hunt, my foot. Mercy killing, that’s what she needed. I rubbed my head. Now a headache to go with ringing ears and bleeding hand. So that’s what’s been happening to the birds in your backyard. I’m sure you know the neighbors have complained.

She needs meat, I tell you. Odell rapped on his chair again. The gargoyle pulled it back to the room’s center. Makes her feel strong.

She can’t take it, Odell. She needs cat food that’s gentle on her digestion. She’s as far from a warrior cat as is felinely possible. She’s a retired Best in Show, that’s all. She does not need to eat birds.

Already late for my next house call, I knew I should have skipped this stop. I must love pain, that’s why I’m a vet.

Kento put