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Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons: A Dixie Hemingway Mystery

Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons: A Dixie Hemingway Mystery

4.1 16
by Blaize Clement

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Author Blaize Clement has earned herself a legion of fans with the first five books in her pet-sitting mystery series. Now Blaize's beloved heroine, Dixie Hemingway, is back, and when Dixie's latest assignment turns dangerous, it's up to her to save the day.

Dixie, no relation to you-know-who, is helping an injured and cantankerous man take care of Cheddar,


Author Blaize Clement has earned herself a legion of fans with the first five books in her pet-sitting mystery series. Now Blaize's beloved heroine, Dixie Hemingway, is back, and when Dixie's latest assignment turns dangerous, it's up to her to save the day.

Dixie, no relation to you-know-who, is helping an injured and cantankerous man take care of Cheddar, his orange shorthair cat. Soon Dixie finds herself totally smitten with the man's adorable infant great-granddaughter. But the baby's naive young mother has enough knowledge about certain powerful local big-mney honchos to send them to prison for life, and they are willing to do anything, even kill her baby, to shut her up.

Caught in the turmoil caused by the grandfather's prickly pride, the granddaughter's misguided plans to regain her young husband's respect by telling the truth in court, and the ruthless determination of wealthy villains to preserve their ill-gotten millions, Dixie is the only person who can rescue the baby. And she has to do it without letting law-enforcement people know -- not even Lieutenant Guidry, with whom she has a new romantic relationship.

Does Dixie have her claws sunk too deep to make it out of this one? Find out in book six of Blaize Clement's splendid series.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In Clement's sharp sixth Dixie Hemingway mystery (after 2010's Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs), the pet-sitting sleuth and former Sarasota, Fla., sheriff's deputy bonds with Ruby Carlyle, the estranged wife of celebrity drag racer Zach Carlyle, as soon as they meet at the Siesta Key home of Ruby's crusty granddad, Mr. Stern. Ruby has sought shelter with her grandfather while waiting to testify against her one-time boss, Ponzi schemer Myra Kriegle, Stern's next-door neighbor. Dixie's job is to look after Cheddar, Stern's American shorthair cat bequeathed to him by Ruby, but she's also concerned about Opal, Ruby's baby girl. When kidnappers snatch Opal from Stern's house, Dixie, Zack, and Zack's beefy best friend, Cupcake Trillin, embark on an exciting rescue mission. The decision of Dixie's fiancé, homicide detective Jean-Pierre Guidry, to move to New Orleans, adds some romantic tension. (Jan.)

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St. Martin's Press
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Dixie Hemingway Series , #6
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Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons

A Dixie Hemingway Mystery

By Blaize Clement

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2010 Blaize Clement
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-7569-8


I read somewhere that if two quantum particles come into contact with each other — like if they happen to bump shoulders in the dairy aisle of a subatomic supermarket — they will be forever joined in some mysterious way that nobody completely understands. No matter how far apart they travel, what happens to one will affect the other. Not only that, but they will retain some eerie form of ineffable communication, passing information back and forth over time and space.

Ruby and I were a bit like those weird particles. From the moment I opened the door and saw her standing there holding her baby, we had a strong connection that neither of us particularly wanted. It was just there, an inevitable force we couldn't resist.

I met Ruby the first morning I was at her grandfather's house. Her grandfather was Mr. Stern, a name which fit him remarkably well. Slim, silver-haired, and ramrod straight, Mr. Stern had ripped his bicep playing tennis. He was not the sort of man to make a fuss about a torn muscle, but his doctor had insisted that he rest his arm in a sling until it healed. That's where I came in. Mr. Stern lived with a big orange American Shorthair named Cheddar, so he had asked me to help twice a day with cat-care things that required two hands. When he asked and I agreed, neither of us had known that Ruby was on her way with her baby. We hadn't known how much exquisite pain we'd both suffer in the following days, either. Not muscle pain, but heartache.

I'm Dixie Hemingway, no relation to you-know-who. I'm a pet sitter on Siesta Key, a semitropical barrier island off Sarasota, Florida. Until almost four years ago, I was a sworn deputy with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Department. Carried a gun. Had awards for being a crack shot. Went to crime scenes with the easy self-confidence that comes with training and experience. Had faith. Faith that I could handle anything that came along because I was solid, I was tough, I had my act together, I was on top of things. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I had calm, fearless eyes. Then my world exploded into an infinity of sharp-edged fragments and I've never had those fearless eyes again.

But on that Thursday morning in mid-September when I met Mr. Stern and Ruby for the first time, I had dragged myself out of a cold, dark pit of despair. I wasn't hollow anymore. I enjoyed life again. I had even thawed out enough to take the risk of loving again. I was actually happy. Maybe all that happiness was the reason I got careless and ended up in big trouble.

I usually make a preliminary visit to meet pet clients and provide their humans with written proof that I am both bonded and insured. The humans and I discuss my duties and fees, and we sign a contract. But since Mr. Stern had something of an emergency, my first trip to his house was also my first day on the job.

He lived on the north end of Siesta Key on one of the older streets where, during the mass hysteria that hit southwest Florida's real estate market, nice houses originally valued at two hundred thousand had sold as tear-downs to be replaced with multimillion-dollar colossals.

Mr. Stern's house was a modest one-level stucco painted a deep shade of cobalt blue. In most places in the world, a cobalt house would probably seem a bit much, but on Siesta Key, where houses nestle behind a thick growth of dark greens and reds and golds, it seemed just the way God intended houses to look. It sat too close to an ostentatious wealth-flaunting house on one side, with another overblown house on the other side that had a huge untended lawn. The lawn sported a bank foreclosure sign — a not-so-subtle reminder that the real estate boom was over and that the value of anything depends on human whim, not on any intrinsic worth.

Slim as a spike of sea oats, Mr. Stern had neatly combed thin gray hair, bushy eyebrows above fierce blue eyes, and a spine so straight he didn't need to tell me he was a military veteran. He told me anyway. He also told me that he was not the kind of man to waste his time on a cat, and that the only reason he had one was that his granddaughter had left her cat at his house and now he was stuck with it. He told me this while he gently cradled Cheddar, the cat, in the crook of his good arm.

American Shorthairs are uniquely American cats. Their ancestors came to this country along with the first settlers. They were excellent mousers — the Shorthairs, not the colonials — and they were noted for their beautiful faces and sweet dispositions. Something you can't say for sure about the first settlers.

Cheddar didn't seem the least bit offended by the way Mr. Stern talked about his disdain for cats. In fact, his lips seemed to stretch toward his ears in a secret smile, and he occasionally looked at me and blinked a few times, very slowly, sort of a cat's way of saying, Between you and me, everything he says is hooey.

Having made it clear that he was a no-nonsense kind of man, Mr. Stern gave me a quick tour of the house. Lots of dark leather, dark wood, paintings in heavy gilt frames, photographs scattered here and there, a book-lined library that smelled faintly of mildewed paper and pipe tobacco. Except for a sunny bedroom with flower-printed wallpaper and a net-sided crib rolled into one corner, the house was what you'd expect of a cultured gentleman who rarely had houseguests.

In the dining room, Mr. Stern opened a pair of french doors with a ta-da! gesture toward a large bricked courtyard. "This is our favorite place."

I could see why. Stucco walls rose a good fifteen feet high, with flowering vines spilling down their faces. Butterflies and ruby-throated hummingbirds zoomed around coral honeysuckle, Carolina jasmine, flame vine, and trumpet vine. The perimeter was a thick tangle of sweet viburnum, orange jasmine, golden dewdrop, yellow elder, firebush, and bottlebrush. A rock-lined pond held center stage, three of its sides edged with asters, milkweed, goldenrod, lobelia, and verbena, while a smooth sheet of water slid over an artfully tumbled stack of black rocks at its back. Inside the pond, several orange fish the size of a man's forearm languidly swam among water lilies and green aquatic plants.

Cheddar twisted out of Mr. Stern's hold and leaped to the terrace floor, where he made a beeline to the edge of the pond and peered at the koi with the rapt intensity of a woman gazing at a sale rack of Jimmy Choos.

I said, "This is lovely."

Mr. Stern nodded proudly. "Those gaps between the rocks make the waterfall something of a musical instrument. I can change the tone by changing the force of the water. I can make it murmur or gurgle or roar, just by turning a dial. At night, colored lights inside those openings dim or brighten on different timers. Sometimes Cheddar and I sit out here until midnight listening to the waterfall and watching the light show."

Ordinarily, when a man talks like that, he's referring to himself and a spouse or a lover. I found it both sad and sweet that Mr. Stern was a closet romantic who turned a stern face to the world but shared his sensitive side with a cat.

The churning sound of wings overhead caused us to look up at an osprey circling above us. It was eyeing the koi the same way Cheddar did, but with greater possibility of catching one. Ospreys are also called fish hawks, and they can swoop from the air and grab a fish out of water in a flash. As I watched the osprey, I saw a dark-haired young woman looking down from the upstairs window of the house next door. She turned her head as if something had distracted her, and in the next instant disappeared. Another woman appeared. The second woman was older, with the sleek, expertly cut hair of a professional businesswoman. When she saw me, her face took on a look of shock, and then changed to venomous fury. A second passed, and she jerked the drapes together and left me staring at shiny white drapery lining.

The hot air in the courtyard bounced from the bricked floor and climbed my bare legs, but a chill had moved in to sit on my shoulders. As unlikely as it seemed, the older woman's animosity had seemed personal and directed straight at me.

The osprey made another circle overhead, hovered atop the wall a moment, then extended its long stick legs for a landing. But the instant its toes touched trumpet vine, it lifted and flew away.

Mr. Stern smiled. "Those birds are smart. There's coiled razor ribbon along the top of that wall. You can't see it because it's hidden under the flowers, but that osprey sensed the danger."

The osprey's shadow had caused the koi to sense danger too. They had all disappeared under rocks and lily pads. The koi were smart to hide. In the garden paradise Mr. Stern had created, life and death teetered on a fine balance.

If I had been gifted with the ability to see into the future and know that Ruby was at that moment coming to bring danger to all of us, I would have followed the lead of the osprey and the koi. I would have hidden out of sight until the danger passed, or I would have left the place entirely and never come back. But I'm not psychic, and even though the next-door neighbor's wicked glare had been unnerving, I wasn't afraid of her.

At least not yet.


Mr. Stern scooped Cheddar up with his good arm, and I followed them inside. I opened my mouth to ask Mr. Stern if he knew the women next door, and then snapped it shut. A cardinal rule for people who work in other people's houses is to refrain from asking nosy questions about them or their neighbors.

Mr. Stern said, "Cheddar likes a coddled egg with his breakfast. Do you know how to coddle an egg?"

I said, "While I'm coddling an egg for Cheddar, how about I soft-boil one for you?" It isn't part of my job to take care of humans, but something about Mr. Stern's combination of tough irascibility and secret sensitivity reminded me of my grandfather, a man I'd loved with all my heart.

He said, "Make it three for me, and leave one in long enough to hard cook it. I'll have it later for lunch."

While I served Cheddar's coddled egg, Mr. Stern got out a plate for himself and sat down at the kitchen bar.

I said, "Would you like me to make coffee and toast to go with your egg?"

"I don't need to be babied, Ms. Hemingway." He pointed at a small flat-screen TV on the kitchen wall. "If you'll turn on the TV, I'll watch the news."

I found the remote, turned it on, and handed the remote to Mr. Stern, who was using his good hand to slap at his pockets. "Blast! I left my glasses in the library. Would you get them for me?"

I sprinted to the library to look for his glasses and found them on a campaign chest in front of a small sofa. As I snatched them up, the doorbell rang.

Mr. Stern yelled, "Would you get that? Whoever it is, tell them I don't want any."

I loped to the front door and pulled it open, ready to be polite but not welcoming.

A young woman wearing huge dark glasses and a baseball cap pulled low over blond hair stood so close to the door the suction of it opening almost pulled her inside. In skinny jeans and a loose white shirt, high heels made her an inch or two taller than me. She had a baby in a pink Onesie balanced on one forearm, a large duffel bag hanging from a shoulder, a diaper bag dangling from the other shoulder, and the hand that steadied the baby against her chest held a big pouchy leather handbag. She was looking furtively over her shoulder at a taxi pulling out of the driveway. I got the impression she was afraid somebody would see it.

Everything about her seemed oddly familiar, but I had no idea who she was.

She swung her head at me and did the same quick I know you, no I don't reflex that I'd done.

She said, "Who are you?" Without waiting for an answer, she surged forward as if she had every right to come in.

From the kitchen, Mr. Stern yelled, "Who was it?"

The young woman called, "It's me, Granddad."

Footsteps sounded, and I could almost feel his grim disapproval before he came into the foyer with Cheddar at his heels.

His voice was frosty. "What are you doing here, Ruby?"

For a moment, the planes of her face sagged, and then she took on the hopeful look of a child who thinks she might get a different response if she asks one more time for something she's always been denied. She dropped the duffel bag on the floor and removed her dark glasses. Without them, she looked even younger than she had before, barely in her twenties. That's when I recognized her. She looked like me. Not the current me, but the me of ten years ago. She also looked desperately unhappy.

Maybe it was because I remembered what it was like to be that unhappy, or maybe it was because she reminded me of my own outgrown self, but I felt her misery like a barbed shaft hurled at my chest.

Cheddar trotted to her duffel bag and sniffed it. We all watched him as if he might do something wise that would resolve this awkward moment.

The woman said, "I don't have anyplace else to go, Granddad."

"Why don't you go to your so-called husband? Or did Zack kick you out for some other drag-race grouper?"

If he hadn't sounded so contemptuous, I would have found it amusing for him to confuse a fish with a celebrity hanger-on. But there was nothing funny about his coldness.

The woman didn't seem to notice his slip, but her hopeful look disappeared. "Please, Granddad. We won't be any trouble."

He made a sputtering sound and waved his good arm at her, which frightened the baby and made Cheddar climb atop the duffel bag and stare fixedly at him. The baby howled in that immediate, no-leading-up-to-it way that babies do, and Mr. Stern seemed shocked at the amount of noise coming from such a small form. This was something he couldn't control. The young woman looked as if she might cry too, and began to jiggle the baby as if jostling her would shut her up.

I'm a complete fool about babies. I can't be around one without wanting to cuddle it, and the sound of a baby crying makes me react like Pavlov's dog salivating at the sound of a bell. Without even asking for permission, I stepped forward and took her. I held her close so she would feel safe, murmuring softly against her bobbly head, and patted her back in the two-one heartbeat rhythm that babies listen to in the womb. I had soothed Christy that way when she was a baby, and for a moment I lost myself in the scent of innocence and the touch of tender skin brushing the side of my neck like magnolia petals. As if she recognized an experienced hand, she stopped shrieking and regarded me solemnly with wide pansy eyes.

The woman said, "Her name is Opal."

"Pretty name."

"It was my grandmother's."

A grimace of old grief twisted Mr. Stern's face. "You can stay, I guess. But nobody's going to pick up clothes you throw on the floor. And you know I like things clean."

As she reached to take the baby from me, she said, "I haven't thrown my clothes on the floor since I was thirteen, Granddad."

The baby's bottom lip puckered as if she were thinking of crying again. The woman said, "I need to change her and feed her."

Mr. Stern said, "Your old room is just like you left it."

If she found anything contradictory about Mr. Stern acting like the curmudgeon of the year one minute and then in the next minute saying he'd kept her old room unchanged, she didn't show it. Bending to grab the duffel bag, she gently edged Cheddar off it and clattered down the hall with Opal's head bobbing above her shoulder. Cheddar galloped after them.

Mr. Stern and I regarded each other with solemn faces. He said, "That's my granddaughter, Ruby. She claims she's married to a drag racer named Zack. Maybe she is, I don't know."

I said, "The granddaughter who left Cheddar with you?"

"The only granddaughter I have."

I said, "Now that she's here, I don't suppose you'll be needing me."

He snorted. "Ruby's not the kind you can depend on. I want you to keep coming."

Acutely aware of the emotions in the house, I hurried to clean Cheddar's litter box. It was in a guest bathroom across the hall from the flower-sprigged bedroom, and while I washed the box and spritzed it with a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide, I could hear Ruby's soft voice murmuring to the baby. She sounded the way I remembered sounding when Christy was a baby — the voice of a young mother absolutely besotted with her infant.


Excerpted from Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons by Blaize Clement. Copyright © 2010 Blaize Clement. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Blaize Clement is the author of the Dixie Hemingway mysteries: Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter, Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund, Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues, Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof, and Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Clement has been a stay at home mom, dressmaker, caterer, and worked as a psychologist for 25 years. She has never been a pet sitter, but has shared her home with dogs, cats, birds, fish, and neurotic gerbils. She lives in Sarasota, Florida.

BLAIZE CLEMENT originated the Dixie Hemingway mystery series, starting with Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter and Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund. She collaborated with her son John Clement on the plots and characters for forthcoming novels. Blaize lived for many years in Sarasota, Florida.

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Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love, love, love this series! I sure hope there are more to come. After six books, it is predictable in that you know Dixie Hemingway is going to get mixed up in a murder investigation, and you know by the end of the book it will be solved. HOWEVER...Dixie's quirkiness and the writer's wit make each book in this series very entertaining. Throw in some fun stories about pets, along with a little romance here and there for Dixie, and you have great stories everytime. Keep them coming!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JaneTPlatt More than 1 year ago
It is a mystery, sexy, exciting book. The writer makesthe story line real. Easy to believe that is could have happened. Colorful, fun characters. LOVE all the books in her seris. Hard to put down.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You know you find a great book and you really fall in love the characters. I just have one complaint. Especially how this one ended. You have to wait tooo long for the next book.
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