Cat in a White Tie and Tails (Midnight Louie Series #24)by Carole Nelson Douglas
In Carole Nelson Douglas' Cat in a White Tie and Tails, Midnight Louie goes along as chaperone when PR whiz Temple Barr and her fiance, rising media star Matt Devine, head to Chicago so she can meet his family. Matt's mother has a tragic past primed to rise and bite anybody in reach, even the ex-alley cat sleuth. When Louie is snatched, the catnapping's/i>
In Carole Nelson Douglas' Cat in a White Tie and Tails, Midnight Louie goes along as chaperone when PR whiz Temple Barr and her fiance, rising media star Matt Devine, head to Chicago so she can meet his family. Matt's mother has a tragic past primed to rise and bite anybody in reach, even the ex-alley cat sleuth. When Louie is snatched, the catnapping's surprising motive loops back to Vegas and a string of unsolved murders connected to magic…and ex-magician Max Kinsella, Temple's former significant other.
Skeptical homicide lieutenant C. R. Molina has commissioned Max to investigate the cold case murder she suspects he committed two years earlier. With traumatic amnesia from a recent attempt on his life, the once infallible Max is more sitting duck than predator. It will take an alliance of frenemies to solve the serial deaths before one of them joins the fatality list.
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"If either Mike Hammer or Columbo had a cat, it would be Midnight Louie." - Cat Fancy
Read an Excerpt
Cat in a White Tie and Tails
A Midnight Louie Mystery
By Carole Nelson Douglas
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2012 Carole Nelson Douglas
All rights reserved.
She was in the water, drowning.
Her hands pressed against her constricted chest, thumped it as if she could force the liquid from her lungs. She couldn't ... breathe. Move.
She'd fallen from the top deck of a ship, a huge ship like the Titanic. Another ship was heading toward her, not like the Titanic, more like the Black Pearl pirate ship.
She knew she was dreaming then, knew she had to struggle to wake up because a nightmare had her by the throat. She knew someone was by her side to do it, if she could only move her paralyzed lips or body before the dark water sucked her under.
She could see the oncoming ship's billowing black sails scudding like storm clouds above her. It was as colorful and clear as a movie scene. She should remember this and write it down. ...
Oh, God! The ship's bowsprit was a solid metal lance twenty feet long, and the ship was wallowing deep in the waves to strike her right in the heart. The figurehead poised below that lethal weapon ... was no naked mermaid.
It was a blindfolded and blinded man with blood trickling from his eyes, his battered body bound to the ship's bow, his mouth distorted around a dirty rag of a gag that bottled up his silent scream.
He was a dead man sinking.
And she knew just who he was and how long he'd been dead.
"Temple. Temple." Someone was shaking her awake. Her hero.
She looked into Matt's dark eyes blinking in the bedside table light. As she blinked herself, he crushed her into his arms. Hmm. Strong arms, warm bare chest ... Her heart was considering a different reason to race.
"You're here, Temple. You're with me. You're safe."
"Yeah. Yeah! Oh, my God, it was an awful dream."
"Oh, high seas, and falling into the ocean to drown, and a ghastly, ghostly pirate ship and a handsome buccaneer to rescue me." She felt like Dorothy Gale explaining a Darkside Oz.
Matt laughed, relieved to hear her making sense. "You've never had a nightmare with me here. They common?"
"No, Matt." She sighed.
"We're going up in an 'airship' of sorts tomorrow morning. Maybe you're nervous about the flight." When she hesitated, he added, "About meeting my family?"
"Or maybe it's Chinese takeout for dinner?"
He laughed again and rolled her over atop him as he turned out the light. "Fiancées the world over go out of town to meet the future in-laws every hour. Granted, my family's a bit messier than most, but they don't bite."
She nodded and murmured as he rubbed her back and let him think what he wanted, needed to.
When she shut her eyes she could still see the grotesque dead man racing toward her. She'd never seen him dead until now, just knew about it. Knew his name. He'd roughed her up once. Clifford Effinger. Sleazeball, petty crook, family abuser, deadbeat, Matt's detested stepfather, and victim of an unnamed killer or killers, slain just the way she'd dreamed him, on the Oasis Hotel's famous sinking sailing ship attraction months earlier. This could not be a good omen.CHAPTER 2
Let the Mind Games Begin
A man without a memory's greatest enemy wasn't vulnerability. It was boredom.
That's what Max Kinsella was discovering. Here he sat in a parked car in Las Vegas, unemployed magician and ex-counterterrorist, staking out the Circle Ritz condo and apartment building.
After spending several days driving on the left side of the road, he had more memories of doing it in Ireland and Northern Ireland than in the U.S. So a car with the driver seated on the left side felt "wrong."
His recent visual memories still featured his slain mentor sitting in the place Max occupied now, as if Max were occupying the lap of a ghost.
Pathetic. Almost as pathetic was spying on a couple he didn't remember and hadn't "known" in his current state of amnesia until last week. He watched them walk out the Circle Ritz's rear door, luggaged up for a trip out of town. And he wondered like crazy where and why.
Blond Matt Devine wore his usual impeccable yet casual beiges. Temple Barr was dressed to impress in a shiny red pencil-skirted suit that looked like leather. Her dark strawberry blond hair glowed redder in the naked sunlight. A leopard-pattern tote bag and matching high heels spiced up the look.
A white-haired older woman in a hot pink muumuu and orange flip-flops shepherded them into boarding order as a Yellow Cab pulled up.
Used to the soothing grey greens of the Irish countryside, Max's eyes almost winced shut at all the bright colors glaring in the sunlight. Despite his ultra-dark sunglasses, it was like watching a Technicolor silent film. Matt Devine gestured to instruct the cabdriver on the proper order in loading the three bags. Temple hefted her bulky tote to the floor of the SUV's second passenger row behind the driver, and then hugged the landlady, Electra Lark.
How odd to observe people he had known and who knew him as if they were pantomiming strangers.
Temple turned to see how the luggage-stowing was going, waiting for an assist up the SUV's first big step. At her height in those heels and that tight skirt, she needed it. At around a hundred pounds, she would get it.
Not a casual girl, in any respect. Max could give her a lift in a second, even with his recovering broken legs, and spin her around. For an instant, his mind flashed inside the building to an earlier time. He saw himself doing just that, and Temple laughing.
His hands tightened on the Volkswagen's steering wheel. When Matt Devine came to the vehicle's side to do the escort honors, Max looked away, up the lone palm tree trunk toward the Circle Ritz's triangular corner balconies. One of those had been his — theirs — once.
A suspicious stirring among the tall oleander bushes edging the parking lot caught his eye. The cause of the suspect motion was a pair of stray cats, one black, one striped.
Neither was Temple's oddly inseparable guard cat, Midnight Louie. Ah. The oversize carrier was for one oversize black cat.
Max shook his head as the rear of the yellow taxi disappeared from view.
He badly needed to find a hobby.
He'd started the car, when something hurtled atop the hood and pressed against the windshield, making him duck below the dashboard.
A cautious peek revealed no Molotov cocktail, but ... Louie? What the —? The resident black cat hadn't gone a-traveling with the happy couple?
Then he saw that the feline eyes glaring into his, utterly unafraid, weren't green, but intensely gold.
This cat was smaller and fluffier than Midnight Louie, but Temple had proved that size and delicacy were no issue, not even when recently tangling with a serial killer.
The cat's gaze was so hypnotically "trying to tell him something," Max settled back behind the steering wheel and began to open the driver's door to shoo it away.
And started again at a figure bending down to the window. Opening it admitted a wave of Las Vegas heat.
"Max Kinsella," Electra Lark said. "Stop lurking out here in the bushes and come in for a glass of iced tea, or stronger. I haven't seen you in far too long and I'm betting a quick tour of the premises might do your meandering memory some good."
"I was just —"
"Watching over us, like that colony of stray cats that moved on but still visits. It's always good to remember where you came from. Isn't she a beauty?" Electra straightened to eye his new hood ornament. "I believe that's Miss Midnight Louise, the 'house' cat at the Crystal Phoenix Hotel. Not a stray. She'll find where she wants to go."
Electra turned and headed toward the building's rear glass door, her flip-flops slapping the hot asphalt like clapping hands. Max eased his frame out of the Beetle's surprisingly roomy driver's compartment. He eyed the black-marble-clad round building not unlike a bunker, except for the architectural frills.
Electra's hot pink–clad form — and there was plenty of it — was in perfect 1950s sync with the age of her building. Rock 'n' roll, Cadillacs, and skinny black ties.
She was right. It was good to remember where you'd come from. And he'd just now recalled the place had an attached Lovers' Knot Wedding Chapel where Electra officiated as justice of the peace.
Despite the view of the departing couple heading for places unknown, Max was not in a mood to dwell on forthcoming weddings.CHAPTER 3
Las Vegas Leavings
No one can say Midnight Louise was not there to see the Old Man off.
"Off" is right. He is again subjecting his keen hearing to heights of thirty thousand feet, plus. I suppose it soothes the male ego to board some shiny silver missile-shaped object that punches through clouds at five hundred miles an hour.
But clouds are merely cotton candy, and earth-bound troubles do not go away just because you do.
I was pleased to see that Mr. Max Kinsella also found it wise to oversee the ill-conceived jaunt to Chicago. That man has instincts that would do a puma proud.
Of course, they are a bit tarnished now. It is a sad day when my unexpected pounce would cause him to duck, but I made very sure that none of my exquisitely filed nails would scratch his vehicle's finish.
The velvet glove. That is my byword. Of course, one must maintain a set of stainless steel stilettos underneath it. My kind often plays five-card stud, so to speak, rotating "hands," like changing out sets of brass knuckles in a fight.
Right now I play the faithful companion, running to brush past Mr. Max's pant legs into the Circle Ritz. I have always believed he is the one most likely to succeed at solving the schemes and scams that have woven webs around the Circle Ritz residents. Besides, a top 'tec can always use a savvy partner, whether he knows it or not.
"This cat," Miss Electra Lark notes, "looks like Midnight Louie's smaller, fluffier younger sister."
She could have added "smarter" too, but I am not one to carp, unlike the resident cat in question, though I emit a gentle mew of reproval.
"You seem to have a lot of black cats around the building," Mr. Max says.
Miss Electra notes his thick dark hair and winks. "Some of us are partial to black cats of all species."
After that they ignore me, so I am able to take the grand tour of my sire's famous home turf. I can see why it is dear to both humans and felines. Since the outer design is round, each unit has an interior private hallway with a front door and a doorbell.
I love doorbells, which are missing from all 1,200 doors at the Crystal Phoenix. I love using them for leaping practice so I can operate elevator floor panels. When the CEO of Midnight Investigations, Inc., assigned me to stake out Mr. Max's house for so many nights, I practiced ringing the neighbor's doorbells for exercise.
How amusing it was when they answered and thought no one was there, even though I kept myself in plain sight.
For Mr. Max this tour is a memory exercise. Miss Electra shows him into a couple of empty units and then we take the elevator down again. I am so tempted to show off my elevator button-punching skills, but realize it is best to keep my full powers concealed.
She does take him past the main floor wedding chapel, silent and dim at the moment, yet eerie, because she has peopled the pews with soft sculpture figures. I leap up to drape the lap of Elvis Presley's glitzy white pleather jumpsuit.
Umm, warm and highly worthy of paw-pummeling.
"Off of the King," Miss Electra orders. "It is the queen cats may look at."
I always appear to obey in public, so I trail my human escorts back to the charming circular entry hall with its single hanging chandelier.
In moments, Mr. Max and I are jerked from elegant interior to glaring sunlight on parking lot asphalt that duplicates what paves about half of American dirt.
Here I am at a crossroads. I can continue to shadow Mr. Max's butter-soft black leather loafers or I can go about my own business, which is always, of course, since I am a sleuth, someone else's.
So do I catch a lift in the silly clown car Mr. Max uses to keep a low profile now? That is a smart move undercover-wise but not what you would call a sweet ride. It does not soothe the savage soul when I know the old man has been hitching rides in limos lately. He is getting soft and could use a showing up, and I am the gal to do it.
Time to investigate on my own.
With that in mind I do a uey and head for the street, perking my ears for the unmistakable shake, rattle, and roar of a UPS truck. They are the unofficial public transportation for the more adventurous of my kind.
They make a lot of stops, their doors are always open, the drivers are always filling out papers and thus able to be slipped past, and they are loaded with nice bulky items to hide behind.
Of course, the drivers' routes are limited and the savvy hitchhiker must know when to forsake one chauffeur for another working nearer her goal.
In less than three "transfers," I am on the Las Vegas Strip, a mere mile or so from my destination. Yet one mile of hoofing it in the hot sun, to a four-footed individual with a three-inch stride like me, is like going for a six-mile hike were I a two-footed person with a fifteen-inch stride.
I am also not about to lose time zigzag-stitching my way through air-conditioned hotels. Taking a rest in the shade of a Stripside bush at the Paris Hotel, I plot the next leg of my journey. I rarely show myself on the Strip. It causes unwanted comment and I also am in danger of being captured and possibly killed for my "own good." It is, as the cliché makes clear, a jungle out here.
Like my old man says, "Kits, do not try solo roaming if you live safe at home and consider a stroll to the litter box a taxing trek. We at Midnight Investigations, Inc., are Vegas veterans and professionals at eluding traffic and tourists and sunstroke."
Right now I am goggle-eyed at passing the parade of portable three-card monte games of chance; mimes; rap artists and tap, break, and ballet dancers; street musicians and magicians; men on stilts; women on Rollerblades and cops on patrol.
You would think the acts from Circus Circus Hotel and Casino up the Strip had gone on strike and taken their skills to the street. I must keep my tender toes dodging the emphatic stomps of tap shoes and toe shoes and clown shoes and sports shoes.
An endless drone of song and spiel drifts down to my level. My ears are unfortunately geared to pick up every sound, not drown them out. What is going on here? Then I realize this streetside show is not a special event, but a new curse brought on by today's Las Vegas, which suffers the lowest house values and highest job losses in the nation.
These bustling and hustling theatrical folk are all fancy panhandlers. Begging is against the law on most city streets, so they "perform" for their supper while the beat cops in their beige Bermuda shorts try to please the big venues and avoid irritating the tourists by moving the impromptu show folks along.
I have been known to cadge a meal, or three, a day. Then I won my slot as the Crystal Phoenix house detective, not to mention the services of the hotel's devoted Asian chef, who has an award-winning hand with what is called the "fruits of the sea" on the best menus in town.
This keeps me far away from the giant fish tank in the lobby of the Mirage, and most of those fish are really too big to consider prey instead of predator. The Mirage is not about to spotlight sardines and anchovies, except on menus or at sushi bars. However, when you are talking about the latest 3-D movie spectacular, that is where you will find me rapt and gazing at the big screen.
For now, though, I stare at the endless passing parade of street performers, which stops frequently to bilk the tourists of a buck or two. This is a job even my senior partner's Miss Temple could not manage. The hotels wish these colorful pests to be gone so all the dollars will flow into their own expensively housed coffers. Yet, to be seen hustling away folks likely hurt by the international wave of economic woes ... is bad for business. So, for once, the powers-that-be in Las Vegas face a lose–lose situation, when it is always win–win in their casinos.
Excerpted from Cat in a White Tie and Tails by Carole Nelson Douglas. Copyright © 2012 Carole Nelson Douglas. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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Meet the Author
Cat in a White Tie and Tails is the twenty-fourth title in CAROLE NELSON DOUGLAS's sassy Midnight Louie mystery series. Previous titles include Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta, Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme, and Cat in a Topaz Tango. In addition to tales of her favorite feline, Douglas is also the author of a historical suspense series featuring Irene Adler, the only woman ever to have "outwitted" Sherlock Holmes. Douglas resides in Fort Worth, Texas.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Carole and Louie do it again. I have loved this series from the very beginning. Fun to have Louise adding her perspective more. Love the big ongoing plot lines that thread through the series. Enjoy seeing where events take the major characters each time. Those of us who have read this series from the beginning can't wait for the next book. Happy reading.
I do love Midnight Louie, but this wasn't one of the best...nevertheless, I'll keep going as long as Carole Nelson Douglas continues with the cat's adventures. Being a cat person, while Louie's abilities exceed the norm, I still enjoy when the author writes from his point of view. If you haven't read a Midnight Louis book, go back and start from the beginning....just like a soap opera you have to know all the players.
You gotta love Louie! Cleverly written with Louie penning his own take on the situation along with Carole's wonderful writing. I would recommend starting the series from the beginning for maximum enjoyment value. If you like Bogart and cats you will love Midnight Louie! Always a pleasure, Carole hasn't missed yet!
Midnight Louie, P.I., the four legged Sam Spade, takes his investigations to Chicago in this episode and makes catnappers/kidnappers sorry they messed with him.