Excerpt: Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary

This is a scene from my cozy cat mystery novel, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary, where Kimberlee goes to Austria in search of a lost treasure in gold coins.  I visited Austria in 1987 and experienced some unusual occurrences. In this story, I was able to have Kimberlee experience these and other unusual events in this otherwise fictional story. The experiences described in this scene in Salzburg are from my own experience. The watercolor described is in my hallway still, a reminder of this wonderful day.

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As Kimberlee passed through the countryside and the forests, the terrain varied and the road rose and fell. Around every corner, another picture post card vista appeared. With no particular agenda, she stopped frequently to take a photograph.

In some green meadows, the only sound was the tinkling of shiny brass bells, hanging from the collars of a flock of sheep or a small group of black and white cows. In other places, the gentle terrain rose up into a fine mist clinging to the hillside. Hidden in the distant mist, tinkling bells confirmed grazing animals, unaware that their bells could produce such a stirring in the heart of an unseen tourist passing on a nearby road.

The vineyards on the hills and meadows became fewer as Kimberlee approached Salzburg, an ancient city where Mozart first played his harpsicord and wrote melodies. Hundreds of years later, people still know his name and enjoy his music.

Near the center of town, she parked the car and began to walk. Ancient ivy-covered buildings with sagging tile roofs covered the courtyards along the sidewalk. Church spires peaked out above red tile rooftops of nearby houses. She passed a church with dates carved into the walls reading 1200-1400. How incredible! One church was said to be 1000 years old!

Violin music drew her toward the town square where a street musician stood on the steps of an ancient church, playing Ave Maria. Pigeons flew overhead from rooftop to rooftop, appearing to be as mesmerized by the music as the cluster of tourists gathered on the steps.

Kimberlee paused to listen as the haunting melody echoed around the square. It touched her heart as it carried her away from this world and back into another time. It was easy to imagine the cobbled streets filled with horse-drawn carts carrying a princess and her ladies in waiting, or a knight in shining armor, after a joust with a dragon.

The musician drew his bow across the strings and as he lowered his hand, the final note hung in the air. The tourists stood spellbound and silent. And then the spell was broken and the more generous visitors tossed money into the violin case at his feet.

Kimberlee opened her purse. “That was absolutely lovely! Thank you.” She put money into his case and wandered on.

She ran to catch a tram climbing to the top of the hill where a medieval castle overlooked the city, a cold and barren place with steps everywhere. The rooms were filled with armor, ancient guns, javelins, chains and torture devices. From the balconies, looking down on the valley was like peeking into the pages of a storybook. Rainy mists on the distant mountains beckoned hikers upward into the cold crisp air. Off to the left, rivers, towers, cathedrals, graveyards, and church spires. Off to the right, cobble-stone streets with horse-drawn carriages, sidewalk cafes, musicians, and archways, where street vendors hawked their wares on the street corners.

Returning to the city below, Kimberlee came upon a street artist sitting with his back against the wall, his easel and backpack by his side. The picture drying on his easel was a watercolor of the nearby ancient church steps where the musician had just played his stirring aria. Unable to resist the desire to memorialize the moment, she purchased the picture. She planned to have it framed and hang it near her bedroom, a constant reminder of the musician and his poignant melody.

What a magical city! After a good meal and a very strong cup of coffee, Kimberlee returned to her car. She must locate a pension where she might spend the night. Tomorrow, she would continue to follow the clues from the WWII soldier’s diary, in hopes that they might lead to the gold coins, still hidden so many years later.

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Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary is available at Amazon (e-book) for $3.99.  Contact me directly for an autographed paperback version. ($15.00 – Free shipping within in USA)

 

A “Revolutionary” Concept – Independence- A Short Story

Alice pulled in her driveway and stepped out of her Prius. Her neighbor, Millie, hailed from across the street. “Yoo-hoo! Alice! Wait up. Happy Fourth of July!” as she scurried across the street.

Millie was the last person Alice wanted to talk to. They had nothing in common. Millie’s husband, George, collected Revolutionary War memorabilia. Their house looked like a war museum. Why did Millie put up with such nonsense?

Millie ran up, breathlessly, “Are you coming to the Independence Day celebration at the Vet’s Memorial Building? It starts in an hour. They’re having a military band, Viet Nam veteran speakers, and fireworks after the meeting. You’re welcome to ride over with us.”

Alice lifted her grocery bags from the back seat. “Sorry, can’t make it. Gotta’ get these things inside. Frozen stuff, you know. Talk to you later.” She hurried into the house. She felt a twinge of guilt. Snubbing Millie wasn’t very nice, but Millie was so gol-darned boring. Every conversation somehow turned to her husband’s latest E-Bay purchase. A Minute Man rifle. A battered sword. A faded British shirt. Alice sighed. Who cared about all that stuff anymore? What difference did it make, anyway, two hundred years later?

The 4th of July was such a nuisance. The fireworks always made the neighborhood dogs bark and the next morning, the streets were a cluttered mess.

Alice went to bed early. She pulled the pillow over her head and closed her eyes…It helped block out the sound of fireworks down the street.

Alice jerked and twisted. What? What was that? She opened her eyes to find herself standing in the middle of a battlefield! The boom-boom of nearby firecrackers became the sound of a beating drum. The sun blazed down on men wearing brilliant red jackets. Sweat poured from their faces as they marched in a straight row toward an outline of shadowy figures in buckskin, hiding behind rocks and trees.

Redcoats? English soldiers? A battlefield? She didn’t belong here! She couldn’t be here. That’s it!  She must be dreaming. Wake up! Wake up! The field would soon be littered with dead and dying men. She turned to run.

Someone grabbed her arm, and yanked her down behind a rock. Her heart pounded. She could smell the sweat on the man crouched beside her.

Grimaces lined the faces of the older soldiers, knowing what was to come. “Hold the line, men. Steady now.”

Younger soldiers, terrified of the unknown, sniffled as each beat of their drum brought the redcoats closer. Though the ragtag soldiers were outnumbered by the advancing troops, they had the advantage with the cover of trees and rocks. The men primed their guns with powder and ball and squatted in the dirt, waiting, waiting as the formidable enemy advanced, step by step.

Alice had to get away. This couldn’t be real! She knew she was dreaming! Why couldn’t she wake up?

The drumbeat stopped. Silence! What happened? She peeked around the rock. There stood the redcoats, frozen in time, guns at the ready, feet in mid-step. The flag drooped, unmoving. The drummer’s drumstick hung above his drum, suspended in mid-air.

Alice lifted her head toward the brilliant sky where scattered patches of clouds gathered as though suspended from wires. Overhead, a bird hung motionless…

She opened her eyes and blinked against the darkness in her room. “I was dreaming!” Dreams were, after all, just snatches of thoughts and memories, sounds and sights stored willy-nilly in one’s mind, and pulled into a fractured scenario to haunt our restless minds. She shuddered, thinking of the day when her dream had been the reality for young men and old who would not live to see another sunrise.

She turned toward the window. Rivulets of rain streaked the glass, curving and twisting as they traversed the pane. Outside, the tree in the backyard wavered in the breeze of an unseasonable summer shower. The Fourth of July celebrations and fireworks must have ended by now. Alice put her hand to her pounding heart. It was just a dream. Everything was fine. Just a dream.

Alice rose from her bed and found a book about the Revolutionary War in her library. She sat in a rocker and began to read:

For the sake of independence, farmers, storekeepers, bankers, men from all walks of life, rebelled at the tyranny England imposed on their fledgling nation. Ill equipped, with antiquated guns and untrained, the Continental soldiers chose to fight a highly trained army made up of Englishmen, German mercenaries, and Hessians.

The Revolutionary war lasted over eight years.
The estimated population in America in 1776 was three million.
80,000 militia and Continental Army soldiers served at the height of the war
25,000 American Revolutionary soldiers died during the war
8,000 more Revolutionary soldiers died later from wounds inflicted during battle
17,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from disease
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers were wounded or maimed
1 in 20 men

All for the sake of following generations, so we could have the freedom to make laws and live by our own rules as established by the Declaration of Independence.

Alice called and left a message on Millie’s answering machine. “This is Alice. Sorry I couldn’t make it tonight. I hope you had fun. I promise I’ll come with you next year. Our freedom is important, isn’t it? We need to remember what the holiday cost our forefathers. It really matters.”

Alice returned to her bedroom. Boom! Another firecracker cracked in the night. Alice stared at her reflection in the dresser mirror. “Does that child have any idea what he’s celebrating or why? We all take so much for granted.”