A new year means a new mayor in the sleepy seaside town of Glendale. Unfortunately, not everyone’s happy about his election. In fact, someone’s so unhappy that they kidnap his beloved Golden Retriever and leave a ransom note claiming they’ll only return the dog when the man resigns his position.
Enter Angie and Octo-Cat with their first official paying case. Little does the mayor know that while they work to safely recover his ransomed retriever, they’ll also be investigating his past to figure out why someone would go so far to keep him out of office.
Can a talking cat find a missing dog? Will he even want to? Find out in the latest adventure of Pet Whisperer P.I.
Read the first three chapters!
My name is Angie Russo. I live in the Blueberry Bay region of Maine, and I can talk to animals. Thanks to this unique—but mostly secret—skill, I’ve taken to solving mysteries around town.
Usually my involvement happens because I have a tendency to wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time, but now I’ve also hung out my hat as a private investigator. And just because I don’t have any clients, that doesn’t mean I’m not good at what I do.
Or more accurately, that we’re not good at what we do.
Yeah, my cat is my business partner, and we also get help from my quirky nan, her sweet Chihuahua Paisley, my lawyer boyfriend Charles, and even the handful of animals that live near our property—most notably, Pringle the raccoon who lives in a luxury tree fort in our backyard and is a tad addicted to reality TV.
Nan and Charles can’t talk to the animals like I do.
In fact, I’ve never met another living soul who can, and I still don’t know why I was blessed with this particular ability. All I know is that I got zapped by a faulty coffee maker, knocked unconscious, and woke up with a talking cat on my chest.
At first, I could only understand that one cat, but over time, my powers grew stronger. Now I can understand most animals, but occasionally I do still find a dud.
That same crabby tabby, Octo-Cat, wound up with me after we worked together to solve the murder of his previous owner. He came with a generous trust fund, a large coastal manor, and an endless string of color commentary about my life.
He has a girlfriend, a former show Himalayan named Grizabella. Their relationship is long distance and mostly sustained through my Instagram account. It’s equal parts adorable, hilarious, and groan-inducing.
But, hey, a happy cat means a happy me.
And I have a lot to be happy about lately, especially since my bad luck often results in good outcomes. First there was the zap that gave me Octo-Cat, then Nan’s impulsiveness landed Paisley in our lives, but those are nothing compared to the fact that a huge family secret had recently been cracked wide open.
Mom and I found out that Nan hadn’t been completely honest about our family’s origins even though she’d had more than fifty years to come clean. And, well, as awful as that whole thing was to discover, it also meant we were able to connect with long-lost family in Georgia, and thus I found the sister I never had in my cousin Mags.
She came for a visit over the holidays and that went well…
She still doesn’t know my secret, but I think I’ll tell her next time we’re together. I probably should have told her before she returned home, but I was scared it would make her and the rest of our newfound family reject me.
I mean, did you believe me at first when I said I could talk to animals?
It’s totally crazy, but also totally true and totally a defining feature of my life—and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
That brings us to today.
We just celebrated the start of a new year. Normally I don’t make resolutions, but this time I decided to do whatever it takes to finally get Octo-Cat’s and my P.I. business off the ground. Even though we can easily live off his trust fund and Nan’s retirement, there’s a special brand of shame in having to be supported by your cat.
I mean, I have seven associate degrees.
At least one of those should be good for a job.
And a job is exactly what I’ll have to get if my business doesn’t take off this year. My boyfriend Charles said he’d welcome me back at the law firm anytime, and while I love him dearly, I always hated being a paralegal.
It doesn’t matter, though, because I will succeed at this P.I. thing.
I’m too stubborn not to.
Besides, I’d really hate to let down my cat…
* * *
“This is so exciting,” Nan trilled as we stood outside of city hall with a small crowd of other Glendalians to watch the incoming mayor get sworn into office.
Paisley barked merrily from within my grandmother’s arms.
Octo-Cat had requested to stay home, given his disdain for crowds, and that was a battle I hadn’t wanted to fight.
The mayor appeared at the top of the steps dressed in a fine navy suit with a light blue dress shirt and matching tie. At forty-seven, he was at least two decades younger than his predecessor. But while Mayor McHenry had been a family man, incoming mayor Dennison was a proud bachelor.
When asked about his singlehood by the press, he always said that his trusty golden retriever was more than enough family for him. Besides, less of a home life made it easier for him to give his full attention to making the humble town of Glendale the best it could be. Good answer, right?
As Dennison moved toward the podium now, a harsh boo rose from the crowd. Nan and I spun and saw a line of protestors holding signs that called for the new mayor to be ousted before he’d even fully taken up office.
“That’s in poor taste,” Nan hissed, shaking her head.
“Why does everyone hate him so much?” I whispered.
She shrugged. “Any time the party in office changes, somebody’s bound to be unhappy about it. The whole country’s a powder keg, so why not our town, too?”
I returned my gaze to Dennison, who stood stock-still with an unreadable expression. Poor guy. He’d won the election fair and square, yet he couldn’t even enjoy this pinnacle moment in his career.
“What’s going on, Mommy?” Paisley asked, wagging her tail in excitement, misreading the mood of the crowd.
I kissed her on the head and whispered, “Don’t worry about it.”
As much as I loved the optimistic little dog, explaining everything to her all the time often became exhausting—especially when we were in public and I couldn’t speak freely.
“People of Glendale,” the new mayor’s voice boomed despite the continuing sounds of protest. “Thank you for electing me to serve as your mayor.”
The boos and calls for him to resign grew louder.
Nan whooped and cheered beside me even though I knew for a fact she hadn’t voted for him. She smiled at me sheepishly. “Poor guy. Someone needs to encourage him.”
Now we both cheered.
Dennison’s eyes met mine, and he nodded subtly before continuing. “I promise to do everything in my power to make these next four years prosperous and safe for all of us. Thank you.”
He dipped his head, then disappeared back inside the building.
Octo-Cat would definitely be upset at having missed the drama of this day.
“Well, that was the shortest inauguration I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to all of them since moving out here some forty years ago,” Nan mused.
“I’m sure it will be fine,” I mumbled. “People just need time to cool off after the election.”
“Yes, because all of November and December and most of January obviously weren’t enough,” Nan responded after sucking air through her teeth.
We stood in place waiting for the crowd to disperse. Some of them did, but the protestors seemed to grow in number as they crept closer to the stairs outside city hall.
“Let’s get out of here,” Nan said, shaking her head sadly.
I couldn’t agree more.
I sat in the enormous bay window of my home library sipping an oversized mug of English breakfast tea while watching the snow swirl past.
Octo-Cat sat at my feet flicking his tail back and forth to the tuneless hum of our mostly silent house. “You wouldn’t catch me dead in that mess.”
I lowered my mug and cuddled deeper into the woven afghan wrapped around my shoulders. “What? The snow?”
He scoffed at my apparent naivete. “Snow, yeah. You can’t fool me. It’s nothing but semi-solid water. No, thank you.”
“You know…” A smile crept across my face as I waited for him to turn toward me. “Maine Coons supposedly love water, and you are part Maine Coon, right?”
He always claimed to be, but we both knew that was a lie.
Octo-Cat’s eyes slitted and his tail stilled. “Yes,” he answered slowly, cautiously. “But I’m also part tabby. Tabbies don’t like the water.”
“Of course.” I took another sip of tea to prevent a chuckle from escaping. Far be it from me to point out that Tabby was a coloration and not a breed. Everything Octavius said had to be taken at face value, lest we upset him.
He’d also gone to the Holiday Spectacular last month when the ground was covered in fresh snowfall and hadn’t complained too much—at least not for him. It seemed we’d now crossed the acceptable level of snow since then. Either that or he was passing judgment on my less than stellar job keeping up with the shoveling.
Light clacking sounded on the floorboards, and a moment later Paisley appeared, tail wagging in its usual dark blur. “Hello, Mommy. Can I cuddle, too?”
Octo-Cat groaned and rolled his eyes when the Chihuahua jumped onto my lap.
“I wanted to say hi before Nan and I go on our run. Hi!”
I gaped down at her. “You’re running in this?” The snow had to be twice as deep as she was tall.
She blinked wide eyes at me, confused by this question. “Why, yes. We run every day, come heck or high water.”
“Water,” Octo-Cat emphasized with a pointed flick of his tail. “Told you it was water.”
Nan and Paisley had started their recreational running hobby on January first and had kept up with it every day since. That was my grandmother for you. She always had a number of hobbies going, usually at least one that was artistic and one fitness based. Often many more than that, too.
This month’s commitment to running, however, seemed to be more about me than about herself. I often pointed out the fact my seventy-something Nan was in far better shape than twenty-something me, and that had become incredibly evident last month when we ran around downtown Glendale chasing killers, kidnappers, and more.
Apparently, I’d complained a bit too loudly and too often, because now Nan invited me to join her every single day—and I said “no” every single day.
Did she really think I’d be up for starting a new exercise regimen at the height of the cold season? Nope. No, thank you.
Sure enough, my worst fears were answered when Nan appeared about five minutes later. She was wearing a hot pink velour tracksuit and held a leopard print coat with a fur collar draped over one arm. “C’mon, we’ve got to get going a little early today. I have a quick stop-off to make before we hit the trail.”
I doubted there was a trail, unless she’d woken up early to shovel one herself. A giant yawn pushed its way out from my chest as a massive shiver racked through my body. “You and Paisley have fun out there!”
“Oh, no. Today you’re coming too,” Nan insisted, reaching for my hand and attempting to pull me from my seat.
I ripped away as if she’d scalded me with her soft touch. “Ha, ha. Nice try. Today’s answer is the same as it’s been every other day you’ve asked me. Octo-Cat and I will hold down the fort here. See you when you’re back.”
“Nope. I’m not taking no for an answer this time.” She crossed her arms over her chest and narrowed her gaze threateningly.
“Why not? You’ve taken it every other day.” I was pushing my luck and I knew it.
She motioned toward the galactic space cats calendar that hung on the wall above my desk, then groaned and marched over to it. Flipping the page up, she pointed to a calico kitten flying through the stars in a giant cartoon taco shell. “It’s the first day of a new month. February.”
I stayed silent, accepting that the more I argued the harder she’d come down on me in the end.
Nan, however, refused to be dismissed. “You may have completely flubbed up January, but a new month means a new start.”
“Can I maybe start in a warmer month?” I glanced out the window again. Everything was white—the ground, the sky, my reflection as all the color drained from my face in fear. She meant it this time.
I was doomed, but I still had to give my resistance one last ill-fated shot. “I don’t have anything to run in,” I complained and forced a sad look.
“Ahh, but you do.” A giant smile lit Nan’s face. “You’ll find a new jogging suit that matches mine exactly. I also picked up some sport boots and thick wool socks. Everything’s waiting for you in your room. Chop, chop. Like I said, we have a quick stop-off to make before hitting the trail.”
Not even cute corn shell taco cats in outer space could save me now. I lifted my eyes to meet her, telepathically pleading for her to have some mercy.
It did not work.
“Five minutes,” she said firmly and then began tapping her foot, already beyond the limits of her patience with me. “Then I’m dragging you outside, whether or not you’re ready.”
We both knew she’d push me butt naked into the snow if I took even a second longer. We also both knew that she was the stronger of the two of us.
I raced out of the library and up to my tower bedroom to get ready. Octo-Cat’s smug laughter followed me every step of the way.
I gripped the handle for the passenger side door of Nan’s little red sports coupe, but it didn’t budge. Normally, Nan not only unlocked the car in advance but she also remote started it so the interior would be toasty warm by the time we took off.
“We’re taking your car,” she called from the porch as she locked up then descended with Paisley in tow.
My car, however, was not where I usually parked it.
Noting my hesitation, Nan pointed toward the far side of the house.
My breaths burst out in icy puffs. As much as I didn’t look forward to running, at least it would make me warm. Right?
The moment I spotted my car, an indignant groan ripped right through me. My once-modest sedan had been outfitted with a hot pink snowplow. “What’s this?” I screamed.
Nan passed by me, opened the door, and situated herself in the driver’s seat. “For making the trail, of course.”
Oh, of course. “Why is it hot pink?”
She shot me a proud grin. “Because that’s my favorite color. You know that. I had it custom made.”
“And did you put it on all by yourself, too?” I managed. Even though my grandmother was in fantastic shape, it was hard imagining her heaving this enormous thing around single-handedly.
She waved off my question with a deft swirl of her hand. “Don’t be silly. I called Cal over to help.”
Great. The next time I saw our favorite local handyman, he’d be getting a very stern talking to. I climbed into the passenger seat and buckled up.
Paisley immediately put her paws on the door and stared out the ice-covered window. I couldn’t imagine she saw much.
“Why are we in the car? We don’t need the car for running. We use our feet!”
Personally, I had other questions in mind. “Are you sure my car can handle this? There’s a reason these things are usually on trucks.”
Nan snorted. “This one’s made of plastic instead of metal. I’m sure we’ll be fine.”
Uh-huh. Famous last words.
Besides, how else are we supposed to carve out our running trail?” She turned the key in the ignition and my tacky, made-over car sputtered to life. We jerked forward, then stopped again just as suddenly.
“What happened?” I demanded of my grandmother.
She ignored me and pushed down on the gas pedal again. Nothing happened this time.
“Huh. Well, it was working last night” was the only thing she said about that.
“Too bad. I guess no running for us today.” I was already halfway out of the car and looking forward to a second cup of steaming hot tea in my favorite reading spot when Nan popped out of the car and called me to a stop.
“Not so fast,” she called after me. “We’ll take my car.”
I kept going, so close to being free to return to my regularly scheduled day. “If my car can’t handle that plow, there’s no way yours can.”
“Paisley, I’m sorry, but you’ll have to stay here. The snow’s too deep,” Nan explained, returning to the porch and setting the Chihuahua down beside the electronic pet door.
The poor little dog whined and looked to me for help. “Mommy, tell Nan I want to come. I always come.”
I didn’t need to translate that. Paisley’s whimpering and low-hung tail said it all. “I wish it was you instead of me, but Nan’s right about the snow being too deep.”
“Nonsense,” Paisley cried, then bolted down the stairs and took a flying leap into the nearest snowdrift, disappearing immediately. Not even the tips of her giant foxlike ears showed above the bank.
I rushed forward and scooped her into my arms.
She was too shocked to do anything other than shiver. “Cold. C-c-c-cold!”
“We’ll be back soon,” I promised loudly, then whispered just to Paisley, “Seriously. As soon as possible.”
She cried again as I set her back beside the pet door.
“Why don’t you go see what Octo-Cat is doing and if you can help?” I suggested.
And just like that, her tail lifted and began to wag once more. She pushed through the pet door, barking happily and calling for our cat housemate.
“All good?” Nan asked, quirking a questioning eyebrow my way.
“With Paisley at least,” I grumbled but followed her back toward the sports coupe and dutifully sank inside. This was going to be nothing short of torture.
“Where are we going?” I asked a few moments later when she still hadn’t explained herself.
“A friend from my community art class needs some extra help. This weather really triggers the arthritis in her joints, and with her twin grandkids off at college this year, she has no one to walk Cujo.”
I gasped in horror. “Cujo? I know we live in Stephen King’s home state, but c’mon. What kind of name is that for a dog, given, well, everything Cujo did?”
Nan sighed but didn’t turn to face me. “Big talk from someone who named her pet Octo-Cat.”
I wanted to laugh but luckily held it together. “Please tell me he’s not a Saint Bernard.”
“No, he’s a mutt. Husky mixed with something else. They’re not sure what.”
Well, we would find out soon enough.
And sure enough, even with the deep snow and icy roads, we were at Nan’s friend’s house five short minutes later.
“Wait here,” she instructed, marching around to the back of the house and returning with an enormous fuzzy beast on lead a few minutes later.
She motioned for me to get out and join them. “Might as well start our run from here.”
“Is that Cujo?” I asked, eyeing the dog hesitantly. He may not have been a Saint Bernard, but he was almost as big as one. His light blue—almost white—eyes made him even more unnerving to look at.
Nan chuckled. “Who else would it be, dear?”
“Stop looking at me like that,” the dog said, reminding me that—oh, yeah—I could talk to animals.
“Like what?” I asked, voice shaking with equal parts cold and nervousness.
“A human who talks? Curious.” Cujo breezed right past this revelation and answered my question head-on.
“Stop looking at me the way everyone does. Like I’m going to eat you. If the way you smell is any indication, you’d taste terrible.”
He opened his mouth and panted in what I assumed was a self-aggrandizing laugh. “Look, I’m a working dog. That means I focus on the job that needs to be done, and right now, that’s assisting your grandmother on her run.”
“Fair enough,” I answered, forcing myself to look away from his steely gaze.
“Hike! Hike!” Nan shouted and then took off at a pace I doubted I’d be able to match.
“Wait for me,” I cried as she and the oversized husky tore through the snow-covered suburban street.
The day had just begun, and already I was more than ready to get it over with.