Cat in a Flamingo Fedora (Midnight Louie Series #7)

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That rough-and-tumble black tomcat Midnight Louie and his flame-haired human companion, temple barr, think shooting a cat food commercial will allow them to play hooky from mayhem. But life is never easy for the vivacious pair, and Temple and Louie are center stage when beloved comic actor (and notorious ladies' man) Darren Cooke is shot to death. Cooke had asked Temple to find out if a mysterious stalker was his unacknowledged daughter, and she is determined to find out the truth. But the search for truth raised...

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Overview

That rough-and-tumble black tomcat Midnight Louie and his flame-haired human companion, temple barr, think shooting a cat food commercial will allow them to play hooky from mayhem. But life is never easy for the vivacious pair, and Temple and Louie are center stage when beloved comic actor (and notorious ladies' man) Darren Cooke is shot to death. Cooke had asked Temple to find out if a mysterious stalker was his unacknowledged daughter, and she is determined to find out the truth. But the search for truth raised a dangerous question: Was this really a murder, or was Cooke a tortured funnyman who finally rang down his own curtain.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"You never know what madness and mayhem you'll find in Douglas's mysteries, but you can be sure it will be wild, witty, and utterly irresistible."—The San Francisco Chronicle

"Douglas leads her readers on a merry chase before neatly drawing these disparate thread together. Midnight Louie's fans will be delighted."—Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews
The seventh chapter in the seemingly endless saga of Midnight Louie, the self-adoring cat who lives with Las Vegas p.r., sometimes p.i., woman Temple Barr (Cat with an Emerald Eye, 1996, etc.). This time, Temple is busy promoting artist Domingo's installation of a million plastic flamingos all over town and supervising Louie's performance in a TV cat-food commercial. Louie's costar is the love of his life, Yvette, owned by hyper has- been actress Savannah Ashleigh. Meanwhile, Temple's own emotional life is complicated by fuzzy attachments to the temporarily vanished magician Max Kinsella and to ex-priest Matt Devine, presently working the suicide watch on a local hotline. In a chance encounter, Temple meets aging star act Darren Cooke, as famous for his sex life as for his stage career. He wants advice on the anonymous letters he's been getting from a woman claiming to be his daughter. Soon after, Cooke is found shot to death in his penthouse suite and declared a suicide. But Temple has her doubts, and Matt wonders whether Cooke was the persistent caller on his hotline who repeatedly said he was a famous person. As his mistress starts nosing into Cooke's affairs, carefully keeping out of the way of Police Lt. Molina, Louie is having his own problems on the set—plagued by longtime enemy Maurice and frustrated in his play for Yvette. The whole unlikely mess is eventually resolved at inordinate length, with a melodramatic confession from an unexpected source.

Masses of inane cat chat and psychobabble, convoluted plotting, and showy but dull characters: strictly for Louie fans and lovers of the frenetic Las Vegas scene, rendered here in all its tacky detail.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812565355
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 4/15/1998
  • Series: Midnight Louie Series , #7
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

In addition to tales of Midnight Louie, Carole Nelson Douglas is also the author of the historical suspense series featuring Irene Adler, the only woman ever to have “outwitted” Sherlock Holmes.  Douglas resides in Fort Worth, Texas.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Voice of the Dark

At one o'clock in the morning, under the overhead fluorescent glare, night was a memory rather than a reality. It was as if a miscegenated moon hung from the bland ceiling, sun-bright yet pale as Dutch cheese.

Matt felt like a hothouse violet being kept under constant artificial illumination, something forced into the unnatural state of flourishing at night, like a vampire. Still, he'd come to enjoy working the night shift, especially in a city like Las Vegas that blurred the lines between night and day at every opportunity.

"One of yours," Sheila sang from the next cubicle, leaning out far enough to show her shy-violet face. "Line four."

Routine callers seem a contradiction in terms for a crisis phone center, but some clients' lives are serial crises, so they become serial callers. Like serial killers, they most often come calling at night. Maybe that's when nerves and negative emotions run hottest.

Matt adjusted his headset and pushed the right button, wondering which of his regulars he would hear. He had more than the other counselors, because he was so "understanding," the supervisor said.

Matt knew that being understanding was merely the result of doing time listening to other people's troubles, and doing an even longer stretch at being too nice to dump those who most deserved it.

"ConTact. Brother John," he said. Tonight, as on some bleary, weary nights lately, he had almost said, "Saint Rose of Lima. Father Devine."

"You're there." A voice both remarkable and unmistakable.

The big, booming basso made the phone line thrum like a contented cat. That voice, so smooth and confident. Hard to believe this man was hooked on anyone else's voice over the telephone. But he was. Matt smiled to feel his spine straighten at the sound of that voice, that Chamber of Commerce, boot-camp sergeant, motivation-seminar leader, preacher, actor vocal command.

In a way, confidence was the core of this man's problems. Too much and too little. And his problems…Matt found himself mentally quoting a rabbi friend's "Oy vey." How could the caller know that Matt was the least-qualified person around to deal with his particular hang-up?

That is the beauty of hotline counseling, utter anonymity. An absolute lack of confrontation, of obligation beyond the moment. No faces to prejudge, no fears to detect in person, no reason to dread the other end of the line, either way.

Would safe sex, Matt sometimes wondered, resemble this in a future age if AIDS remained an untreatable plague?

"Don't you ever take a day off?" the caller asked, though the Voice sounded pleased by the idea of Matt being eternally on call.

"Not over weekends, which is when you call most often."

"Do I? God, you got me there! I hadn't noticed. That's what I like about you, Brother John, always there, and you always remember things I forget."

"Not always. I may be accessible, but I'm not eternal, or omnipotent."

"Hey, you are to me, baby!"

Gambler maybe, Matt thought. The Voice thrummed with the gamester's high Matt had heard before.

"I'm here to help," Matt said firmly, "not to feed dependency fantasies. You don't need to know about me. You need to know about you. Have you contacted that psychiatrist in L.A. I referred you to?"

"Oh, thanks, yeah! I got my people trying to set up an appointment, but I'm on the road so much. And the impulse comes over me so…sudden. Just when things are going great. Guess that's self-sabotage, huh?"

"Sounds like you've been reading some of the books I recommended."

"Oh, yeah. I can get in a little reading on the road. But I like talking best. That's what I do best."

"I believe you. That's why a hotline could become addictive, as addictive as your main problem."

"An addictive personality just keeps breaking out all over, like hives, huh?"

"Until you deal with the root of the addictions."

"Root is right!" His laugh was as compelling as his speaking voice. "Hey, almost called you 'Doc' then."

"I'm not. I'm not anybody. You've got to seek consistent, professional help."

"But now, right now? 'Cuz it's coming on again. That…itchy trigger finger, you might call it." A laugh, man-to-man bawdy. "That sense of impending doom and delight. I'm gonna do something I'm gonna regret tonight, if you don't stop me."

"If you don't stop yourself. I'm an echo, a wailing wall. I reflect back what you need to hear, to see about yourself. Don't give me any credit. You're doing all the work."

"I'd like to meet you sometime." Spoken suddenly. "I mean, you sound like such a together guy. Even, you know? No highs, no lows. That's my business, all highs and all lows. Then I get so itchy…gotta release the tension. Then, I blow it. Can't anymore. Got a lot more to lose. A lot.

"Got a wife now. Me, a wife! God, she's a knockout. Body by va-va-va-voom. Every guy in the world would kill to be in my shoes. And we got a little baby. She still kept her figure, after, not gonna let that slide. The wife, not the baby. Never thought I'd go so crazy over anybody else, but that baby…Why do I still get those late-night gonna-do-something-baaad blues, Brother John? I'm gonna blow it all, the best time of my life, and I can't stop myself."

"Yes, you can! You said you have before."

"Yeah. You talked me out of it a couple of times. Only times I didn't do anything. You're the only one."

"Is that what you tell your wife?"

A long silence on the phone.

"You punch like Muhammad Ali sometimes. Makes me wonder why I keep coming back for more."

"You don't have to. Just make and keep an appointment in L.A. I gave you three top names—"

"Names! My whole life is Names. Maybe that's why I do it. I find the Nameless ones. I follow 'em, introduce myself and it's so easy. It's done. Then I don't have to remember their names, or anything else about them. Like I've put 'em away somewhere, and I'm at peace. Until the next one."

"What about tonight? Isn't somebody with you? Your wife?"

"Working out of town."

"The baby…?"

"With the wife and nanny in Switzerland."

"Can't you look at their pictures?"

"Oh, man, photos don't do it. Not when I get the itch. Haven't you ever had to have something so bad, so fast, right now, that it's like you're on skis and you see the downhill run and you know you're gonna crash into a great big cedar, but, hell, the ride is everything."

This time Matt was silent.

"Well, haven't you? There must be something that gets you by the throat like that sometimes. A sport? A woman?"

"No," Matt said before remembering an imperative that he could hardly mention, even in this anonymous interchange: the compulsion he felt to find Cliff Effinger. But a mission to locate an abusive stepfather missing for years was hardly what the caller meant. He was talking about pleasurable addictions. Looking at a murdered body that had borne Effinger's I.D. in a morgue viewing room and being unable to say for sure that this was the demon who had haunted his boyhood…seeing a presumed-dead man walking in Effinger's cocky lope across the Strip not long afterwards, these were not pleasurable sightings. His hunt for the truth, for Effinger dead or alive, wasn't an addiction. It was only an obsession. Wasn't it?

No, Matt concluded. Nothing pleasurable had ever driven him, only duty and guilt and anger. "No," he said.

"No! No babes. No ballgames. No fun. What the hell are you, man, a monk? That's what they call them, don't they? 'Brothers'?"

"Yes, they do, but no, I'm not a monk." Not quite.

"Yeah, I know. You're nobody. Believe it or not, sometimes I envy guys like you. Probably lived in the same place for ten, fifteen years. Wife and kid. Two cars, one dog. Maybe you mentally play the stock market now and again for kicks. Am I right?"

"No." Matt couldn't help sounding amused. "But it doesn't seem like a bad life. Why can't you settle for it?"

A sigh, dramatic enough for a nighttime TV soap opera. "Never thought I'd settle for the domestic routine, period. Lot of people—women—were pissed when I did, like I'd betrayed them. Women are always taking things personally, aren't they?"

"So they should, especially when so many men class them into one big aggravating category."

"Hey, I like women! Boy, do I like women."

"That's not good enough, though, or you wouldn't be on the phone now."

"Yeah, you're right. I think I like 'em. I say I like 'em, but I guess I like to have had 'em better than I like 'em. They're never enough, and I don't buy that proving my manhood bull, either. But there's a down, after. Maybe I didn't really like the one I was with enough to have screwed her, or maybe she didn't really like me, maybe she liked my Name, or some other little—or not so little—thing about me.

"It's like doing a big gig. You get up for it, the hoopla and the howling and the screaming and swooning. You perform your guts out, you get rave reviews and leave 'em laughing and applauding and whistling…and it's still not enough. Afterward, you're alone and you feel hollow. You ever felt like that?"

"Everyone has."

"And then, it's really funny. They all loved you. Loved what you did. And you think, they were so easy. So you despise them for loving you, and yourself for not loving them. Then you end up hating everybody, even yourself. It's like you wish you could scrape yourself off yourself, you know? And shake that slimy skin on the floor and leave it there with the Victoria's Secret Miracle Bras and the stale perfume and your pricey silk underwear."

"You don't want to go through that again, and the guilt, now that you have someone to answer to."

"I don't answer to anybody."

"Except yourself."

"Yeah, except me."

"The self that wants to peel its skin off. You ever have thoughts, at times like that, of suicide?"

"Suicide, naw! That's ludicrous. I'm at the top of my game. I'm a winner."

The Voice kept silent for an unprecedented minute and more.

"I've drunk myself cold out, sometimes, afterward. Maybe that is a death wish. Maybe I oughta call that L.A. shrink, or all three." A laugh. "You scared the hell out of me this time. I think I'll make it. You're worth every penny."

"This is a free service."

"Not when I'm calling long-distance."

"You're calling long-distance? You're not in Las Vegas?"

"Now, yeah."

"But before, you've called from out of the area?"

"From out of the country, pal."

"That's…absurd."

"No. You're worth it. I've been telling you. You're the best."

"The best?"

"Yeah. I told you."

"You mean…you call other hotlines?"

"Sure, all over. Hey, I go all over, and the Devil on my back is ready to ride every goddamn night I'm alive. But, don't worry, you're the best."

"Don't you see? You're playing the same game with me…with all of us anonymous counselors, that you play with your wife."

"So what? You're jealous, is that what you're saying? You want to be the only one, or some dumbass thing? Hotline counselors are just like women?"

"No, I'm saying that you're the same, with everyone and everything. Until you see that, and work to change it, you're going to trust no one, not even yourself."

"You can't fool me, Brother John. Everybody wants the same thing from me: attention, time, all my attention and all my time. Well, I'm a busy guy. I belong to the world. I don't need this policing. I don't need your shrink list and your straight-arrow shock over the phone. Forget I called; I won't make that mistake again."

The line hummed like an angry bee. Dial tone. Empty line. Unoccupied. The Voice, exiting on an egocentric, aggrieved note, was gone.

Matt hung up the phone, still wondering what had hit him.

The man was a master manipulator. Matt knew that, had always recognized the fact. He'd encountered such carelessly charismatic personalities before, often in very successful people, very insecure people. Still, this time Matt had been caught off guard. All that sincerely articulated flattery about how much Matt did for the man, how he helped him. But no one could do anything for this particular man, who gaveth and who taketh away. Always he had to take away: you are not really the One. You are not really Unique. You are only One of. I am Unique and you are One of Many who take/want/beg/borrow from me. My time, my attention, my intimacy. I award it everywhere so that you will know you are Nothing Special. Only I am Something Special.

Matt shook his head. His callers didn't often leave a bad taste at the back of his mouth. He seldom felt that they were hopeless cases. And he never believed that they deserved their own misery. This man did, he thought with a flare of rare anger. Wasting ConTact's literally precious time, tying up the line when someone truly troubled—and deservingly humble—might have needed to call in.

"Deservingly humble." Matt replayed that phrase in his mind. His own education and experience, steeped in the Beatitudes from the Mount, argued that the meek had a place on the earth, if not over it. Many religions emphasized self-effacement to the point of self-abasement. That wasn't any healthier than a rampaging ego that seduced and subdued every other person around it. Self-serving people were hard to like, in Matt's book of flaws, but they still needed help even when they were stomping your own self-esteem as flat as roadkill.

He knew that. Already the sting of personal betrayal, a form of superego, was fading.

He also knew that the Voice would call again, and ask for him. Only him. Always him. Even from long distance.

Copyright © 1997 by Carole Nelson Douglas

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

Tomcat private eye Midnight Louie is one of my favorite creations. I call his mystery novels 'cozy noirs' because he's Sam Spade in a catsuit. In his eighth adventure, Cat in a Flamingo Fedora, Louis stars in cat-food commercials while his roomie, public relations freelance Temple Barr, helps artist Domingo swathe Las Vegas in a million pink-plastic lawn flamingos. When famous actor and infamous ladies' man Darren Cooke is found dead in his hotel bedroom, Temple discovers she was the deceased's last visitor. Whatever will Matt Divine -- and homicide detective C. R. Molina -- think? Hunting the femme fatales in both male celebrities' lives puts Temple into moral as well as mortal danger. Meanwhile, Louie eludes a film-set feline assassin, but a vengeful human waits in the wings with a fate much worse than death for the four-footed sleuth.
—Carole Nelson Douglas
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2012

    Midnight Louie is a unique character. Quite entertaing with his

    Midnight Louie is a unique character. Quite entertaing with his Sam Spade attitude and feline charm. Great series.

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