All in a Day's Work and Countdown to Lift-Off!
The fifth book in my Meg Sheppard Mystery Series is stashed in boxes sitting beside me, waiting for lift-off at Blue Heron Books on Saturday, June 17!
There's more info below the story.
This story is the piece I wrote for the June 2023 meeting of the Uxbridge Writers' Circle. It was another one of those word challenges - and, yes, the words were tricky. I show them in italics but I thought I'd list them here too: choir; flower; reactive; cat; barricade; sink; trembled; weird.
Warning - it is a bit whacky!
All in a Day's Work
Dooley screeched to a halt as the Audi’s emblem touched the barricade. Bruce trembled and dropped the gun. He hated Dooley’s driving.
Dooley had made a split-second decision not to ram the barricade and the car skidded to a standstill. He regretted it but it was too late. Now he had to invent some plausible story to get them through.
“My apologies,” he said to the sentry who seemed unable to bend down to talk to Dooley. He must have spent so many hours standing erect that he’d forgotten how to move. “I have Dr. Barton Marlborough here and he was called upon, urgently, by Lady Suzannah.” He waved his own business card out of the car window. “The doctor was led to believe Lady Suzannah needed his immediate veterinary services.”
The sentry didn’t move, but a burly man emerged from a nearby hut, removed the pylons, and opened the gate. Security was a priority for Lady Suzannah and Dooley noticed three cameras.
The sentry still hadn’t moved. There was something weird about him. But they were on their way to the mansion and that was what mattered.
The drive up to the entrance would have been lovely if Dooley hadn’t floored it. The Audi even got some air at the top of one of the small hills. Bruce had hold of his seatbelt, and the handle above his head, as Dooley blurred the landscape. Flashes of colour whizzed past, almost making Bruce dizzy. They must have been patches of flowers.
The entrance was grand. Tall, ornate white pillars propped up a roof that jutted over marble steps. Large stone cats, not the usual lions, sat on the first step. As Dooley spun the Audi around and stopped alongside one of the cats, Bruce lost it and screamed.
“What?’ Dooley yelled.
“That bloody cat’s alive.”
“You’ve finally lost all your marbles. Get out. We’ve got a job to do.”
Dooley opened the door, but it was slammed shut on him.
“Told you,” Bruce said.
Dooley, who was known to be resourceful, brave, and determined, felt a curious sensation. He felt his heart sink.
“They said this would be an easy mission.”
“You’ve got through worse,” Bruce said in an attempt to get Dooley focused so they could get out of the mess they were in. Dooley could be reactive, but he could also be proactive. This needed both.
“What have you got in that medical bag?”
“My usual supplies.”
“Something to knock this cat out then?”
“Some ketamine hydrochloride should do it.”
“Fill up a syringe with enough ketamine.”
“How are you going to inject him?”
“Where’s that half sandwich you kept from lunch?”
Bruce chucked the takeaway box at Dooley. He was on the verge of losing faith in this man, concerned that their mission was in jeopardy. He filled the syringe.
“I don’t have any ketamine left.”
“Well, I’m worried even if you’re not. I like to have some on hand.”
“Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Bruce handed him the syringe.
“No, you’re the vet. You do your thing. I’m going to entice the cat. He’s lying next to my door. He’s an amazing animal. I wish I knew what kind of cat he is. Get in the back. You’ll probably have to lean out and act fast. This sandwich will be one mouthful and I don’t want my hand bitten off.”
“I don’t want my face ripped off.”
“We can do this.” They each pulled on their black leather gloves. Bruce scrambled onto the back seat.
“Ready?” Dooley asked.
“Not really, but I suppose so.”
Dooley rolled down both his and Bruce’s windows. The cat smelled the sandwich and roared. Bruce almost dropped the syringe.
“We might have to shoot him,” Bruce said.
“It’s not in our mission to kill cats. Besides, the gun’s only for emergencies and I can’t remember where I put the bullets.”
Bruce didn’t have time to argue—the cat lunged up at Dooley’s window and snatched the sandwich. Bruce jabbed at the cat with the needle and the cat turned his head towards him just as the window closed.
“Did you do it?”
“I don’t know if I got it all into him and, even it I did, it might take a while to take effect.”
“You struck lucky. He seems wobbly already.”
“What about the other cat?”
“That one really is made of stone. We must get on with it.”
Dooley picked up the gun and they left the Audi from the opposite side to where the cat was wandering around as if confused.
“Are we going in the front door?”
“Where’s your medical bag? You can’t get good help these days.”
Bruce jogged back from the Audi, bag in hand with the cat following. They strode up the steps. Dooley took a face mask out of the bag and pressed a button underneath a screen.
“Oh, it’s you. Come in.” The door opened and they entered a brightly lit hall.
“You should leave the mask on. They’ll be cameras everywhere,” Bruce said.
“The only good idea you’ve had all day."
“There’s no need for that tone of voice.”
“We’re doing all this for you.”
“That’s not true. We’re doing it for them, and Chelsea of course.”
A robot appeared and commanded them to follow. The voice sounded very much like Lady Suzannah’s.
“Let’s do as it says, but keep a lookout,” Dooley said. They entered an expansive room decorated with huge sculptures of cats, large photographs of cats, and live cats. The smell of cats was pungent and acrid and the mewing was a bit irritating. There must have been a hundred of them.
“This is the cat room,” the robot said.
“I would never have guessed,” Bruce said.
“Are they here, Bruce?” Dooley whispered.
Lady Suzannah tottered into the room wearing a long, flowing dress made of printed material that appeared to be a patchwork of various cats’ coats.
“You can take that ridiculous mask off, Dooley. I knew you’d come. Chelsea’s cats are safe and happy. They won’t want to go back with you.”
“We don’t intend to leave without them,” Dooley said.
“Okay. I give in. You can have them.”
“What’s the catch?”
“You must find my lion and return him to me. Someone stole him from his pen when I was singing in Pallotti’s online choir. I’m an alto.”
“Very nice. But how do you expect us to find your lion?”
“I have camera footage of course. It should be easy for you two.”
“What if we don’t find him?” Bruce asked.
“I’ll snatch Chelsea as well as her cats. All of them this time.”
“Fair enough,” said Dooley.
Bruce and Dooley each enjoyed a pleasant cup of tea and a fruit scone, although Dooley found two cat hairs floating in his Royal Doulton cup.
Glad to leave without having to threaten Lady Suzannah with the unloaded gun, they carried Chelsea’s four precious ragdoll cats out to the Audi and placed them carefully on a sheepskin rug in a large crate.
“That was successful,” Dooley said.
“Yes. We got the cats.”
“No, I mean we planted a couple of bugs in the sculptures. We’ll finally get something for our bosses on Lady Suzannah and her illegal smuggling of wild cats.”
“You know, I could have sworn that enormous cat waved at us when we left,” Bruce said.
Vicky Earle Copyright 2023
Countdown to Lift-Off!
I hope to see you all at the launch of Dying for Money this Saturday!
Counting the days.
It will be a fun event. Everyone is welcome.
There will be readings, nibbles, and giveaways.
This is a sneak preview, just for you.
A small tidbit from Chapter 1 'Murder'.
"William and Jake aren't at the farm."
"Where are they?"
"William wouldn't say."
"And there's some strange man who keeps on asking when you'll be back. He's not nice. He's even come to the farm. Kelly growled. She doesn't like him."
This wonderful independent bookstore, Blue Heron Books, Uxbridge, is hosting the event on Saturday, June 17 between 1 pm and 3 pm.
By the way, all five books will be available.
See you there.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
If you have questions: firstname.lastname@example.org