Cat in a White Tie and Tails

A Midnight Louie Mystery

Midnight Louie Mysteries (Volume 24)

Carole Nelson Douglas

Forge Books

Chapter 1

Underwater
 

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.”
“About what?”
“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.

 
Copyright © 2012 by Carole Nelson Douglas