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Cat Cross Their Graves A Joe Grey Mystery
By Murphy, Shirley Rousseau
HarperCollins Publishers ISBN: 0060578084
Up the Molena Point hills where the village cottages stood crowded together, and their back gardens ended abruptly at the lip of the wild canyon, a row of graves lay hidden. Concealed beneath tangled weeds and sprawling overgrown geraniums, there was no stone to mark the bodies. No one to remember they were there save one villager, who kept an uneasy silence. Who nursed a vigil of dread against the day the earth would again be disturbed and the truth revealed. On winter evenings the shadow of the tall, old house struck down across the graves like a long black arrow, and from the canyon below, errant winds sang to the small, dead children.
There had been no reports for a dozen years of unexplained disappearances along the central California coast, not even of some little kid straying off to turn up at suppertime hungry and dirty and unharmed. Nor did the three cats who hunted these gardens know what lay beneath their hurrying paws. Though as they trotted down into the canyon to slaughter wood rats, leaping across the tangled flower beds, sometimes tabby Dulcie would pause to look around her, puzzled, her skin rippling with an icy chill. And once the tortoiseshell kit stopped stone still as she crossed the neglected flower bed, her yellow eyes growing huge. She muttered about a shadow swiftly vanishing, a child withflaxen hair. But this kit was given to fancies. Joe Grey had glanced at her, annoyed. The gray tom was quite aware that female cats were full of wild notions, particularly the tattercoat kit and her flights of fancy.
For many years the graves had remained hidden, the bodies abandoned and alone, and thus they waited undiscovered on this chill February night. The village of Molena Point was awash with icy, sloughing rain and shaken by winds that whipped off the surging sea to rattle the oak trees and scour the village rooftops. But beneath the heavy oaks and the solid shingles and thick clay tiles, within scattered cottages, sitting rooms were warm, lamps glowed and hearth fires burned, and all was safe and right. But many cottages stood dark. For despite the storm, it seemed half the village had ventured out, to crowd into Molena Point Little Theater for the week-long Patty Rose Film Festival. There, though the stage was empty, the darkened theater was filled to capacity. Though no footlights shone and there was no painted backdrop to describe some enchanted world and no live actors to beguile the audience, not a seat was vacant.
Before the silent crowd, the silver screen had been lowered into place from the high, dark ceiling, and on it a classic film rolled, a black-and-white musical romance from a simpler, kinder era. Old love songs filled the hall, and old memories for those who had endured the painful years of World War II, when Patty's films had offered welcome escape from the disruptions of young lives, from the wrenching partings of lovers.
For six nights, Molena Point Little Theater audiences had been transported, by Hollywood's magic, back to that gentler time before X-ratings were necessary and audiences had to sit through too much carnage, too much hate, and the obligatory bedroom scene. The Patty Rose Film Festival had drawn all the village back into that bright world when their own Patty was young and vibrant and beautiful, riding the crest of her stardom.
Every showing was sold out and many seats had been sold again at scalpers' prices. On opening night Patty herself, now eighty-some, had appeared to welcome her friends; it was a small village, close and in many ways an extended family. Patty Rose was family; the blond actress was still as slim and charming as when her photographs graced every marquee and magazine in the country. She still wore her golden hair bobbed, in the style famous during those years, even if the color was added; her tilted nose and delighted smile still enthralled her fans. To her friends, she was still as beautiful.
When Patty retired from the screen at age fifty and moved to Molena Point, she could have secluded herself as many stars do, perhaps on a large acreage up in Molena Valley where a celebrity could retain her privacy. She had, instead, bought Otter Pine Inn, in the heart of the village, and moved into one of its third-floor penthouses, had gone quietly about her everyday business until people quit gawking and sensibly refrained from asking for autographs. She loved the village; she walked the beach, she mingled at the coffee shop, she played with the village dogs. She soon headed up charity causes, ran benefits, gave generously of her time and her money.
Two years ago she had bought an old historic mansion in need of repair, had fixed it up and turned it into a home for orphaned children. "Orphans' home" was an outdated term but Patty liked it and used it. The children were happy, they were clean and healthy, they were well fed and well educated. Eightytwo percent of the children went on to graduate from college. Patty's friends understood that the home helped, a little bit, to fill the dark irreparable void left by the death of Patty's daughter and grandson. Between her civic projects and the children's home, and running the inn, Patty left herself little time for grieving.
She took deep pleasure in making the inn hospitable. Otter Pine Inn was famous for its cuisine, for its handsome and comfortable accommodations, and for the friendly pampering of its guests. It was famous indeed for the care that Patty extended to travelers' pets. There are not so many hotels across the nation where one's cats and dogs are welcome. Otter Pine Inn offered each animal velvet cushions by a window, a special menu of meaty treats, and free access to the inn's dining patio when accompanied by a human ... Continues...
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