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)

 

Remembering Salzburg, Austria

In 1987, my daughter and I traveled to Germany, Austria and Switzerland. I kept a diary during that two week journey. Here are the entries from Salzburg, Austria.

Walking through the streets of Salzburg is like walking back into history. One sees houses with flower boxes, painted scenes on the exterior walls of the buildings, church steeples, roofs of clay tiles and bell towers. The streets are cobbled and many of the windows are made of leaded glass.

There are vineyards up on a nearby hillside and an ancient ivy covered building with sagging tile roof across the courtyard lends a medieval flavor to the view. Church spires peak out above the red tile rooftops on nearby houses and unconsciously we scan the faces of the passersby, perhaps expecting to see Mary Poppins. Dates carved on the churches range from the year 1200-1400. One church is said to be 1000 years old.

A kitty sits atop a nearby rooftop, meowing piteously, as tourists peer up and try to decide if he is stuck, hungry, or just bored and teasing the tourists.

We drive along a river and follow a road up the side of a grape-laden hillside to the very top. Below us, a park follows the curve of the river. We can see the tiny train below and churches steeples scattered among the rooftops. A storm is brewing and the sky darkens with rain clouds as we stand atop the mountain, looking down over the city which for hundreds of years is unchanging.

Yes, as modern times came, freeways and electric wires approached the city, the merchandise sold in the stores has changed, and automobiles replaced the horse carriages, which once clip-clopped along the cobbled streets. The narrow lanes remain the same, the lovely churches, fortresses, palaces, and hillsides are unchanged. The city will tolerate progress but it will not give in to it. Our modern conveniences are an intrusion on its medieval splendor.

Visitors from the United States marvel at the unchanging and apparently timelessness of this beautiful country. The land stretches out unspoiled as we compare it to our familiar busy cities. The mountains beckon hikers upward into the cold clean air. Though there are industrial areas, much of the land is still in its wilderness state, as it was at the moment of creation, lush and green and seemingly immune to modern marvels.

In the town of Salzburg, there is a town square where a street musician plays Ave Maria on a violin. Above us pigeons fly from rooftop to rooftop and the music echoes around the courtyard. I let my mind wander and it is easy to imagine the town filled with people coming and going up and down the tiny cobbled streets in horse drawn carts. Over here would be a peddler selling vegetables, and over there a princess is escorted by her ladies-in-waiting. Over here a group of soldiers march down the street, straight and tall, tired from slaying dragons on the hillsides.

Another day and music might have filled this same courtyard, not from the church but from the house down the street where a thin young boy named Mozart plays the harpsichord and writes melodies that will one day make him famous, even several hundred years later.
Over there a beggar sits by the church wall and begs for alms. Many pass him by, even as today, so many hungry people walk our streets and though we call ourselves “more civilized,” how many of us are guilty of turning away?

A horse cart clip-clops by, bringing me back to today as the last beautiful strains of Ave Maria fade into the sky. We give the musician money and move off down the street where we buy a watercolor painting of the church from a local street artist.