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Temple Barr is an ace P.R. wizard when it comes to promoting Las Vegas' hottest clients. She's also an amateur sleuth who has caught her share of bad guys.
B-movie actress Savannah Ashleigh begs Temple to investigate the suspicious death of her rich aunt's handyman. Temple happily takes the case, if for no other reason than to take her mind off her chaotic private life. Her ex-fiancé, the Mystifying Max, is back–minus his memory. And current fiancé Matt Devine has shown up from a stint in Chicago with the promise of a surprising future. Which may or may not include Temple.
As Temple digs into the man's untimely demise she finds plenty of suspect and greedy humans swarming around the ailing Aunt Violet, who means to leave her estate to her resident cats. Temple thinks she's close to solving the case, but it becomes clear to Midnight Louie, Temple's roommate and ace feline detective, that there are more deaths both human and feline coming. Add in the return of a mysterious stalker from the past, and it's murder and mayhem on all fronts for Temple, Louie, and the ones they love in the newest story in the Midnight Louie mystery series.
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Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta is the twenty-second title in Carole Nelson Douglas's sassy Midnight Louie mystery series. In addition to tales of her favorite feline, Douglas is also the author of the historical suspense series featuring Irene Adler, the only woman ever to have "outwitted" Sherlock Holmes. Douglas resides in Fort Worth, Texas.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Temple Barr, PI
Temple’s fingers were doing the flamenco across her laptop keyboard, writing an e-mail press release, with Midnight Louie, her twenty-pound black cat, playing his usual role of paperweight beside her, when her phone rang.
Midnight Louie growled in alarm and rose up on his forelegs.
Temple wasn’t the skittish type. You had to have nerves of steel to deal with the emergencies and sudden zigs and zags that a freelance public-relations person had to control, particularly in Vegas, and particularly in these Internet character-assassination days.
She had a right to be jumpy after that international phone call twelve hours ago from the late great Max Kinsella, missing magician and ex–significant other, back from the presumed dead. He was even now flying back to Vegas on her say-so, after he’d encountered danger, death, and memory-melting head trauma in Northern Ireland. She was picking him up at the airport later today
So this phone call could be full of woe.
Or, since her new and true love and official fiancé, radio counselor Matt Devine, was on a business trip to Chicago and had family there, he could be calling to report snags, feuds, or winning the Power Ball lottery.
Either way, she was now a nervous Nellie about the simple act of answering the phone.
No caller name popped up on the phone screen. Normally, a blank screen meant new business, but just right now Temple was a little shaky on dealing with voices from the Blank Nowhere.
She picked up the phone and said, “Hello.” Cautiously.
Relief. A woman was calling. The ghost from her recent past wasn’t calling back. Yet.
“Right,” Temple said.
“Do you mean this is the right Temple Barr?”
“The Temple Barr?”
“I like to think so.”
By now Louie’s softly growled warnings were a musical accompaniment. He knew when she was tense or worried.
“I didn’t reach that eatery out on Temple Bar at Lake Mead somehow?” the voice persisted. “It sounds like a kid is whining in the background.”
“No, you’ve reached me, the Temple Barr with two rs.”
The voice, both breathy and chesty, was beginning to sound awfully familiar. “Awful” in the deeply serious sense of the word.
“May I ask who’s calling, please?” Temple said. Her normal voice had a slightly hoarse edge. Now it was getting raspy with impatience and ... dawning horror.
“This is Savannah Ashleigh.” Pause for effect. “The screen star.”
The second sentence was highly debatable. The first was ... all too true.
Temple had crossed paths and spike heels with the ditsy, glitzy C-movie queen several times. The worst was the occasion when Midnight Louie had been cast in cat food commercials with Ashleigh’s Persian beauty, Yvette. When Yvette proved to be with kittens, Savannah had accused Louie of illegal littering and had actually tried to do him bodily harm.
Fortunately, twenty pounds of ex–alley cat Louie can handle any scheming human from murderer to media minx. He came out of the incident proved innocent, in tact, and on top, as usual.
Temple, however, was terminally disgusted with Savannah Ashleigh and all her works.
“What can I do for you, Miss Ashleigh?” Temple asked in a businesslike monotone, polite and oh-so-wishing the connection would break. Cell phone reception was extremely iffy in Las Vegas, especially near the Strip. Connections could be hard to hold. This one wasn’t. Alas.
Temple sat and listened and nodded, not inclined to take the woman seriously. Finally, she got a sentence in.
“Murders happen every day in Las Vegas and surrounding suburbs, Miss Ashleigh.... No, not in your neighborhood, I’m sure.... Oh. Never, you say?”
Temple couldn’t quite believe that any Vegas neighborhood hadn’t hosted murder, old or new.
“Um, you want to hire me to investigate a murder? And where do I see clients?” she echoed her caller.
Temple thought hard. She was now too curious to indulge her dislike. Although she had a knack for solving murders, no one had ever wanted to hire her to do it. And the “case” would take her mind off ... impending men.
She did not want the memory of Savannah Ashleigh polluting her living quarters. Not that the woman was bad—besides at acting; she was just a Ditz Queen who usually traveled with a purse pet of some kind. Midnight Louie would never get over his turf being so invaded after what Savannah had done.
She glanced again at Louie, getting an idea. He’d once favored hanging out near a canna-lily stand and koi pond, like Sam Spade keeping office hours behind the ...
“Of course,” she told Savannah Ashleigh. “We could meet at the Crystal Phoenix Hotel.”
“Yes,” she repeated her caller’s reaction, “it is ‘always gracious to do business over a good belt.’ I’ll meet you at the Crystal Court Bar. One P.M.”
Temple shut off the connection.
Louie was regarding her, enormous green eyes reducing his pupils to their most condemnatory slits. Temple made excuses, fast.
“It is Savannah Ashleigh, as you heard. Maybe she meant ‘belt’ in the sense of ... a solid Austrian crystal Judith Leiber designer belt—yum—or conchos or shells or even a black belt.”
Louie gave his opinion of this meeting by swiping the last printed-out pages off her desk. Now that was a “good belt.”
“You can come along and visit Midnight Louise,” she coaxed him. “Wouldn’t that be nice?”
Midnight Louise was a black stray who’d taken Louie’s position of house cat at the Phoenix after he’d moved in with Temple at the Circle Ritz condominium and apartment building.
Nice? Louie had no comment but chewing the hairs between his toes.
“Besides,” Temple mused. “I’m wondering why Savannah Ashleigh wants to see me about a murder. Aren’t you even curious?”
That comment propelled him off the desk to the floor.
Temple checked her watch. Eleven A.M. It must be five o’clock somewhere, and she could use a “belt” or two as well. Matt wasn’t coming home from a career-changing personal appearance on The Amanda Show in Chicago for three days, but what was left of Max was flying in from Northern Ireland late this afternoon.
Temple guessed she could use a time-wasting rendezvous with a has-been movie actress to keep her mind off the forthcoming personal apocalypse.
Copyright © 2011 by Carole Nelson Douglas
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