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The Cat Possessed by Louise Carson

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It’s April 1st and young artist Gerry Coneybear, inheritor of her Aunt Maggie’s big old house The Maples (and her aunt’s twenty cats!), wishes her mountain of bills was a joke. She’s just self-published her children’s book The Cake-Jumping Cats of Dibble, and that cost money. Plus the valuable painting she was hoping to sell is missing from the auctioneers’. And on top of everything else, her kitten Jay is acting weird, keeping her up at night. It’s almost as if the cat’s possessed.

At least Gerry’s personal relationships are going well: with her boyfriend Doug, part-time house keeper Prudence, and the odd assortment of friends she’s made over the year since she moved to Lovering, a tiny village by the Ottawa River. All seems well as Gerry bakes treats for the art class she teaches at home, cleans out the woodshed and plans a surprise birthday party. But then one of her students begins sketching ghosts, someone eggs Gerry’s home, and she feels she’s being stalked. There’s trouble with Prudence’s long lost husband too.

Things come to a head when Gerry’s house is tagged while she’s in it, her house is rammed by a car, and one of her relatives attacks another. Add in a suspicious death and you have another cozy Maples Mystery.

Extract

Still night. What had woken her? A desire to escape the dream? She hadn’t been afraid exactly, more a witness than a participant. Yet it had felt as though the two little girls were looking right at her.

The cats on the bed were unfazed. Bob, Seymour, Jay and Lightning slumbered, each in their own little zone. I need a bigger bed, she thought, and wondered what it would be like to wake up with Doug by her side all the time. He’d say it was just a dream and I’d go back to sleep. She turned on her side.

A curious sound close to the front of the house brought her to full consciousness. She went to the window in her room which overlooked the main road and looked down. If anyone was there, they’d be hidden by the porch roof.

She turned to look at her clock radio. 12:34 gleamed red. She remembered the last time the clock had displayed those numbers, the night Jay seemed possessed. She shivered and put on her robe. She always found it slightly creepy when the numbers all lined up like that when she just happened to observe them. 11:11 was worse for some reason. “You’re being fanciful,” she said aloud. The sound was repeated. Jay woke up.

Remembering how demented Jay had become the last time she’d been up at night, Gerry quickly picked her up and held her firmly. “No climbing the curtains tonight, please, Miss Jay.” The little face turned upward and the little eyes opened wide. “Oh, right. Miss Innocent,” Gerry said and snuggled her face into the kitten’s soft fur.

This time, the sound, a kind of thock, thock, seemed to come from the side of the house nearest to Blaise’s. Gerry moved to that window and peeked out the edge of one curtain.

The bare apple tree below a sliver of a moon. Some stars. The lawn dark instead of white. In the perennial garden the beginning of new growth. The cat struggled in her arms.

Thocka, thocka, thocka. Now coming from the back of the house. Could it be a bird? Trying to get in? She’d had blue jays hammering at her siding for insects periodically. They made a similar sound. Perhaps one of those giant woodpeckers? But most birds rested at night, didn’t they? Bats?

She cautiously moved into the bedroom formerly occupied by Aunt Maggie, where four of the cats still liked to sleep, preserving some memory of their lost mistress, or perhaps just because they were creatures of habit.

Whatever the thock was, it hadn’t woken The Honour Guard. Blackie, Whitey, Mouse and Runt were curled up on the bed’s comforter, though they blinked sleepily as Gerry entered with Jay. She edged to the room’s back window and looked out.

A haze hung over the lake, a thin patchy mist that eddied slightly. The water was calm.

Jay wrenched free and ran out of the room. Gerry followed her downstairs. She wondered why she wasn’t more afraid.

The sounds led them along the back of the house, from the bamboo room, still shut for the winter and colder than the rest of the house, to the dining room where more cats slumbered then woke, as Jay agitated around two of the chairs, rearing on her hind legs and clawing at the upholstery. Gerry was briefly distracted but more sounds made her run into her little art gallery, adjacent to the dining room, then into the living room. Every time she looked out a window, there was only the peaceful early spring landscape and the thock had stopped.

Jay followed her into the living room, this time pawing at the two rocking chairs before skittering into the kitchen where she hopped onto the counter, straining to look out the window which faced the shed. Gerry looked too.

The sounds were very near. Gerry unlocked the side door and stepped onto the little kitchen porch, knowing the outer door was locked.

A face reared out of the darkness. A face wearing a mask. The mask of classical tragedy, the downturned mouth and weeping eyes frozen forever in a painful grimace.

One part of Gerry’s mind said this couldn’t be happening even as the other part assured her it was.

The figure’s arm came up and it directed a stream of red fluid at the glass. Gerry screamed and the figure ducked out of sight. She stepped back, hitting the door frame with her elbow as she retreated into the kitchen, slammed the door and locked it.

She sank onto the floor, holding her funny-bone and breathing heavily. Jay jumped off the counter and onto her lap, purring and kneading her chest. “Jay, listen.” The kitten stopped purring. There were no more thocking sounds. The house was quiet. The stovetop clock face showed 12:38. The whole episode had taken only four minutes!

Gerry felt her heartbeat slow. But still. She slid up the wall and reached for the phone. She jerked as a mousetrap snapped.


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English

Fiction

2020

9781773240749

Signature Editions

Winnipeg

2020

240

softcover