Cat in a Flamingo Fedora: A Midnight Louie Mystery (Midnight Louie Mysteries)

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9780812565355: Cat in a Flamingo Fedora: A Midnight Louie Mystery (Midnight Louie Mysteries)

That rough-and-tumble black tomcat Midnight Louie and his flame-haired human companion, temple barr, think shooting a cat food commercial will allow them to play hooky from mayhem. But life is never easy for the vivacious pair, and Temple and Louie are center stage when beloved comic actor (and notorious ladies' man) Darren Cooke is shot to death. Cooke had asked Temple to find out if a mysterious stalker was his unacknowledged daughter, and she is determined to find out the truth. But the search for truth raised a dangerous question: Was this really a murder, or was Cooke a tortured funnyman who finally rang down his own curtain.

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About the Author:

In addition to tales of Midnight Louie, Carole Nelson 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.:

Chapter 1

Voice of the Dark

At one o’clock in the morning, under the overhead fluorescent glare, night was a memory rather than a reality. It was as if a miscegenated moon hung from the bland ceiling, sun-bright yet pale as Dutch cheese.
Matt felt like a hothouse violet being kept under constant artificial illumination, something forced into the unnatural state of flourishing at night, like a vampire. Still, he’d come to enjoy working the night shift, especially in a city like Las Vegas that blurred the lines between night and day at every opportunity.
“One of yours,“ Sheila sang from the next cubicle, leaning out far enough to show her shy-violet face. “Line four.”
Routine callers seem a contradiction in terms for a crisis phone center, but some clients’ lives are serial crises, so they become serial callers. Like serial killers, they most often come calling at night. Maybe that’s when nerves and negative emotions run hottest.
Matt adjusted his headset and pushed the right button, wondering which of his regulars he would hear. He had more than the other counselors, because he was so “understanding,“ the supervisor said.
Matt knew that being understanding was merely the result of doing time listening to other people’s troubles, and doing an even longer stretch at being too nice to dump those who most deserved it.
“ConTact. Brother John,“ he said. Tonight, as on some bleary, weary nights lately, he had almost said, “Saint Rose of Lima. Father Devine.”
“You’re there.” A voice both remarkable and unmistakable.
The big, booming basso made the phone line thrum like a contented cat. That voice, so smooth and confident. Hard to believe this man was hooked on anyone else’s voice over the telephone. But he was. Matt smiled to feel his spine straighten at the sound of that voice, that Chamber of Commerce, boot-camp sergeant, motivation-seminar leader, preacher, actor vocal command.
In a way, confidence was the core of this man’s problems. Too much and too little. And his problems...Matt found himself mentally quoting a rabbi friend’s “Oy vey.” How could the caller know that Matt was the least-qualified person around to deal with his particular hang-up?
That is the beauty of hotline counseling, utter anonymity. An absolute lack of confrontation, of obligation beyond the moment. No faces to prejudge, no fears to detect in person, no reason to dread the other end of the line, either way.
Would safe sex, Matt sometimes wondered, resemble this in a future age if AIDS remained an untreatable plague?
“Don’t you ever take a day off?” the caller asked, though the Voice sounded pleased by the idea of Matt being eternally on call.
“Not over weekends, which is when you call most often.”
“Do I? God, you got me there! I hadn’t noticed. That’s what I like about you, Brother John, always there, and you always remember things I forget.”
“Not always. I may be accessible, but I’m not eternal, or omnipotent.”
“Hey, you are to me, baby!”
Gambler maybe, Matt thought. The Voice thrummed with the gamester’s high Matt had heard before.
“I’m here to help,“ Matt said firmly, “not to feed dependency fantasies. You don’t need to know about me. You need to know about you. Have you contacted that psychiatrist in L.A. I referred you to?”
“Oh, thanks, yeah! I got my people trying to set up an appointment, but I’m on the road so much. And the impulse comes over me so...sudden. Just when things are going great. Guess that’s self-sabotage, huh?”
“Sounds like you’ve been reading some of the books I recommended.”
“Oh, yeah. I can get in a little reading on the road. But I like talking best. That’s what I do best.”
“I believe you. That’s why a hotline could become addictive, as addictive as your main problem.”
“An addictive personality just keeps breaking out all over, like hives, huh?”
“Until you deal with the root of the addictions.”
“Root is right!” His laugh was as compelling as his speaking voice. “Hey, almost called you ‘Doc’ then.”
“I’m not. I’m not anybody. You’ve got to seek consistent, professional help.”
“But now, right now? ‘Cuz it’s coming on again. That...itchy trigger finger, you might call it.” A laugh, man-to-man bawdy. “That sense of impending doom and delight. I’m gonna do something I’m gonna regret tonight, if you don’t stop me.”
“If you don’t stop yourself. I’m an echo, a wailing wall. I reflect back what you need to hear, to see about yourself. Don’t give me any credit. You’re doing all the work.”
“I’d like to meet you sometime.” Spoken suddenly. “I mean, you sound like such a together guy. Even, you know? No highs, no lows. That’s my business, all highs and all lows. Then I get so itchy...gotta release the tension. Then, I blow it. Can’t anymore. Got a lot more to lose. A lot.
“Got a wife now. Me, a wife! God, she’s a knockout. Body by va-va-va-voom. Every guy in the world would kill to be in my shoes. And we got a little baby. She still kept her figure, after, not gonna let that slide. The wife, not the baby. Never thought I’d go so crazy over anybody else, but that baby...Why do I still get those late-night gonna-do-something-baaad blues, Brother John? I’m gonna blow it all, the best time of my life, and I can’t stop myself.”
“Yes, you can! You said you have before.”
“Yeah. You talked me out of it a couple of times. Only times I didn’t do anything. You’re the only one.”
“Is that what you tell your wife?”
A long silence on the phone.
“You punch like Muhammad Ali sometimes. Makes me wonder why I keep coming back for more.”
“You don’t have to. Just make and keep an appointment in L.A. I gave you three top names--”
“Names! My whole life is Names. Maybe that’s why I do it. I find the Nameless ones. I follow ‘em, introduce myself and it’s so easy. It’s done. Then I don’t have to remember their names, or anything else about them. Like I’ve put ‘em away somewhere, and I’m at peace. Until the next one.”
“What about tonight? Isn’t somebody with you? Your wife?”
“Working out of town.”
“The baby...?”
“With the wife and nanny in Switzerland.”
“Can’t you look at their pictures?”
“Oh, man, photos don’t do it. Not when I get the itch. Haven’t you ever had to have something so bad, so fast, right now, that it’s like you’re on skis and you see the downhill run and you know you’re gonna crash into a great big cedar, but, hell, the ride is everything.”
This time Matt was silent.
“Well, haven’t you? There must be something that gets you by the throat like that sometimes. A sport? A woman?”
“No,“ Matt said before remembering an imperative that he could hardly mention, even in this anonymous interchange: the compulsion he felt to find Cliff Effinger. But a mission to locate an abusive stepfather missing for years was hardly what the caller meant. He was talking about pleasurable addictions. Looking at a murdered body that had borne Effinger’s I.D. in a morgue viewing room and being unable to say for sure that this was the demon who had haunted his boyhood...seeing a presumed-dead man walking in Effinger’s cocky lope across the Strip not long afterwards, these were not pleasurable sightings. His hunt for the truth, for Effinger dead or alive, wasn’t an addiction. It was only an obsession. Wasn’t it?
No, Matt concluded. Nothing pleasurable had ever driven him, only duty and guilt and anger. “No,“ he said.
“No! No babes. No ballgames. No fun. What the hell are you, man, a monk? That’s what they call them, don’t they? ‘Brothers’?”
“Yes, they do, but no, I’m not a monk.” Not quite.
“Yeah, I know. You’re nobody. Believe it or not, sometimes I envy guys like you. Probably lived in the same place for ten, fifteen years. Wife and kid. Two cars, one dog. Maybe you mentally play the stock market now and again for kicks. Am I right?”
“No.” Matt couldn’t help sounding amused. “But it doesn’t seem like a bad life. Why can’t you settle for it?”
A sigh, dramatic enough for a nighttime TV soap opera. “Never thought I’d settle for the domestic routine, period. Lot of people--women--were pissed when I did, like I’d betrayed them. Women are always taking things personally, aren’t they?”
“So they should, especially when so many men class them into one big aggravating category.”
“Hey, I like women! Boy, do I like women.”
“That’s not good enough, though, or you wouldn’t be on the phone now.”
“Yeah, you’re right. I think I like ‘em. I say I like ‘em, but I guess I like to have had ‘em better than I like ‘em. They’re never enough, and I don’t buy that proving my manhood bull, either. But there’s a down, after. Maybe I didn’t really like the one I was with enough to have screwed her, or maybe she didn’t really like me, maybe she liked my Name, or some other little--or not so little--thing about me.
“It’s like doing a b...

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