Today we are featuring a mini-mystery from author Christine Amsden. Her new book, Cassie Scot:
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Last night, I was just about to close up and go home for the day when an old woman walked into my office with a cat carrier. Inside the carrier, a black cat hissed and yowled. I suppose I would have felt that way too, if someone had locked me inside a little cage. I felt instant sympathy for the cat. Not so much for the old lady.
“Cassandra Scot?” she asked.
“Cassie,” I corrected automatically. Only my parents called me Cassandra.
“I knew your grandparents.”
I tried not to groan. My grandparents had been highly respected sorcerers until they died in a lab explosion a few years back. I never knew what they had been working on, but since that day there has been a swirling vortex in the lab.
Don't ask – I really have no idea.
“Have we met?” I asked.
“Miranda Cleaver. Mrs. Cleaver.”
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Cleaver.”
If she heard my sarcastic emphasis on the honorific, she didn't mention it.
“Your grandparents used to set wards in my house to keep the demons out,” Mrs. Cleaver said. “Since they've died, the wards have failed. There are now demons running amuck in my house, and Sylvie – my poor cat – has been possessed by the devil.”
“I... see.” What was I supposed to say? She had just walked past a sign proclaiming, “Cassie Scot: Normal Detective.”
“I read your web site,” Mrs. Cleaver said.
“Really? Did you see my list of services and exemptions?”
“So what do you need?”
“An exorcism. I told you, Sylvie is possessed by the devil.”
I glanced again at the hissing cat, whose yellow eyes shone with very typical feline anger. “I don't do exorcisms. It was listed under exemptions.”
“But you're Cassandra Scot, aren't you?”
“Your parents are Edward and Sheila Scot?”
“Yes.” I felt my face burning. Just because I had powerful sorcerers for parents, didn't mean I was one as well. Okay, so it wasn't just my parents – it was my grandparents, aunt, uncles, cousins, brothers, and sisters. Still, there had to be a second cousin out there somewhere without any magic at all.
Why couldn't people just read the sign?
“Well, then.” She sounded as if the whole matter were settled. She plunked the carrier on my desk and took a vacant chair in front. “I went to your father first. Your grandparents always told me to go to him if I needed anything after they were gone. Your father said you were ideally suited for this sort of work.”
“He did?” My dad wasn't above a practical joke, but this sounded more like something my brother would do. My brother, who looked more like Dad's twin that his son, thanks to Dad's egregious use of youthening potions.
“Nicolas,” I muttered under my breath. “This is war.”
“What's that, dear?”
“Why don't I take a quick look at the cat?”
“Of course, dear.” Mrs. Cleaver clearly had not expected any other result.
I opened the door to the cage, but carefully did not reach my hand inside. The cat stopped hissing. After a moment or two, it poked its nose outside the cage, sniffing the air. Then it stepped outside.
That's when I noticed how very pregnant Sylvie was.
“She needs to see a vet,” I said. “She's going to have kittens.”
“I know. Little demons. It never used to happen when your grandparents were alive.”
“I... see.” I seemed to be saying that a lot. “You know what? I think I'll need to keep her for a few days. I'll call you when she's free of the... demon.”
“You will?” Mrs. Cleaver's eyes shone with relief. Crazy or not, I knew I'd said the right thing. “How much will it cost? I don't have a lot of money.”
“Don't worry about it.”
“I really must pay you.” She dug through her beaded handbag, closing her fist around a bill, which she handed to me with the air of someone bestowing a treat on a young child. “Thank you so much.”
I watched in bemusement as she walked out the door, leaving me to deal with the pregnant cat. I figured I'd take Sylvie home to my sister, Juliana, a gifted healer. She had been begging our parents for a cat lately, anyway.
As soon as the door closed behind the old lady, I glanced at the bill she had pressed into my hands. A single dollar. I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.
At least my parents are rich.
“This is the last paranormal case I'm taking though,” I said to whoever might be listening.
Sylvie meowed. I think she knew I was kidding myself.