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First pages

One

“What the hell do you mean we have to add two zombies to the cast?” The question came out much louder than I intended. I didn’t mean to take it out on Toby…well, yes I did. Toby Blackerby was the marketing director for Actors Theatre. If we had to add two untrained zombies to the cast the day before final dress rehearsal, then it was Toby’s fault. This close to zero hour, I wasn’t in a mood to let him get away with this sort of bullshit. In fact, I'd never had a good mood turn sour so quickly.

“Now, come on Andrew.” Toby raised his hands in a placating gesture which did nothing to stem my growing ire. He might look harmless, sitting across the desk from me in a plaid jacket and a perky bow tie, but this was not the first time this smooth-talking businessman had caused the theatre trouble. Hell, it wasn’t even the first time he had caused me trouble, and he knew it. He was walking on mighty thin ice where I was concerned, and his easy smile and natty bow tie wouldn’t protect him if he pissed me off.

“I’m not asking for a major cast change here,” Toby continued. “All we need is to add two zombies to the horde. You already have thirty in the play. Just dress them up and tell them to follow the other zombies.”

“You went to the dress rehearsal last night, right?” I asked in a deceptively mild voice. Toby made the casting change sound so simple. It was anything but. This was turning into a headache I did not need.

“Yes. I have to say, I didn’t think a theatre could do justice to Night of the Living Dead. What a surprise! When all those zombies started through the audience in the final scene, it looked so real it made me want to run for my life.”

While the compliment was appreciated, I had a point to make. “Let me show you something.”

Standing up, I circled the big metal desk and led Toby to the doorway of my office. I was in luck. The guy who delivered our bottled water was finishing up some paperwork at the reception desk.

“Say, Robbie,” I called out, “act like a zombie for me.”

“Sure thing, Mr. Hamilton.”

I liked Robbie. He was a good kid. He worked hard and had a nice touch with his customers. Robbie stuck his arms straight out in front of him, put a grimace on his face, and walked towards me like a cartoon Frankenstein’s monster. I couldn’t have gotten a better demonstration if I had staged it myself.

“Thanks, Robbie,” I said, and then gave the kid a grateful smile. He had no idea how much easier he had just made my job.

“No problem, Mr. H. Hey, Jessica gave me tickets to opening night. I can’t wait to see the show.”

My secretary was a kind woman. Robbie didn’t make the kind of money that let pricey theatre tickets be a priority, but he was good to the office and deserved our thanks. I should have thought of giving him the tickets myself, but I’d had a lot on my plate with this production. Jessica was a clever and observant assistant. She never has to worry about job security…I don’t know what I’d do without her.

“That’s great, Robbie,” I said, meaning every word. “We’ll see you there.”

As Toby and I went back to my office, Robbie headed for the elevator which would take him to street level and out of the downtown building holding our business offices. After closing the door, I sat behind my desk. This situation was going to be difficult; there was no way around it now. Whatever deal Toby had made was going to cause me trouble. I would take advantage of every outward sign of my authority to get through this conversation. My desk is large and shiny on purpose. When someone sits on the other side of it, they know they are talking to the boss.

“Toby, you saw our zombie horde last night. Did a single one of them act like Robbie?”

“No, of course not. That’s what Zombie University was for, wasn’t it? To teach the folks from the community how to act like zombies?”

No theatre outside of Broadway can afford to cast thirty actors as extras in a play. As was traditional with this production, Actors Theatre had enrolled people from the community in an evening workshop affectionately named “Zombie U.” The townies paid an enrollment fee which helped offset costs of the production and bought them a small theatrical makeup kit. We even had some angels in the city who'd paid tuition for those who couldn’t afford it. It was a good system, and it had been fun as hell to do. If Toby's cast change had come a month ago instead of during tech week, it would have been dead easy to add two more zombies to the show. They could have attended Zombie University like everyone else.

“Each one of our zombies spent three nights a week for a month learning how to become a zombie. It’s why the show is so creepy. That’s why it looks real. Now, what’s going to happen if I stick two yahoos into the horde who act like Robbie did?”

“They’re going to stick out like a sore thumb, aren’t they?” Toby admitted.

“Ya’ think?” I asked, my tone of voice giving Toby a not-so-subtle hint as to how unhappy I was with this entire idea.

“But Andrew, we have to do it. Bradford and Wendy are local television celebrities. Their involvement will give us so much free publicity we can’t say no. Pre-opening sales have been good, but something like this will sell us out. Both stations have already agreed to some TV spots for the show, as well as a human interest piece with the celebrities themselves. They’ll send cameras to final dress and get some footage of the celebrities at work. We need this.”

Without even thinking about it, my elbow found the edge of my desk and my face found my palm. Television celebrities. TV personalities invading our zombie horde. Nothing against news anchors and the like, they are good at their jobs, but they aren’t often trained as actors. I’d have a harder time whipping them into undead shape than your average person off the street, what with their smooth talk and predisposition to look attractive. Toby was right. We couldn’t say no to this kind of publicity, but I’d be damned before I let these people ruin the play.

“Fine,” I muttered into my hand before lifting my face to look at the ghoul seated across from me. “But these are my conditions. First, you get to go speak to the Rotary Club tomorrow afternoon instead of me, so you better get home and write a speech. Make it a good one…they’re one of our biggest community funders.”

“But Andrew,” Toby began, the stage fright already apparent in his face, “you’re the artistic director. They want to hear you talk.”

“Too bad. Sucks to be you, but I’m going to be busy. I’ve got two new zombies to train and only tomorrow to do it. Which brings me to my second point… if I can’t get two to three hours with these celebrities tomorrow before final dress, they aren’t going on. I don’t care what kind of publicity we are giving up. Set it up and tell me when. Right before dress rehearsal would be preferable.”

“I’ll do my best. But shouldn’t Leslie train them? She’s the director.”

“She’s got too much on her plate already. I helped with Zombie U, if they can be trained at all, I can do it. And now for point three, you get to be the one to break this news to Leslie and Randall. Expect Randall to be pissed, as well he should be. The costume shop has been underwater all week working overtime to get this giant show ready for opening. They’re tired and grumpy, which is understandable with how hard they’ve been working. They’ll be so happy to hear they have to pull two more costumes out of their asses before final dress tomorrow. Speaking of which, better get those people’s measurements to them ASAP.”

“God, Andrew, I’ll talk to Leslie, but please don’t make me talk to Randall.”

I must be pissed off. The fear in my marketing director’s voice was cheering me up. It was the best part of this entire depressing conversation.

“No. This is a good idea for publicity, Toby, but it should have been conceived weeks ago. If you are going to pull last minute stunts like this, I want you to know exactly how much trouble it causes the departments of this theatre.”

Toby was a good man and passionate about his work. With a few more years under his belt, he’d be an asset to our team. However, he came to us from outside the theatre world. The sooner he learned how show business worked, the better off we all would be. Ideas like his sound good on the surface, but they cost time and money to pull off. Time and money we didn’t have when it was the day before final dress rehearsal and two days from opening night.

After Toby left, looking much less enthusiastic about his publicity idea than he did when he opened my office door, I buckled down to do some paperwork. The title of artistic director sounds fancy-- I am the driving force behind what direction the theatre takes--but if people knew how much of my work involved fundraising and paperwork, they wouldn’t be jealous. Today, I was hammering out the final negotiations for the royalty rights to the plays we wanted to produce next year.

I’d been hoping we could do Chimerica, but the play was too new and the royalties more than we could afford for that slot in the season. It would have been a fresh piece, but our yearly Festival of New American Plays gained us enough world premieres to cover new shows. If they couldn’t cut us a better deal, Chimerica was off the table. I fashioned an email to that aim and sent it off to NHB. Maybe we would get lucky. If not, I could substitute the older, but still fresh, Boy Meets Girl.

Email sent, I picked up the phone and dialed the costume shop. Toby should have had enough time to break the bad news. Frances Ehrendreich, the shop supervisor, answered on the first ring.

“Has Toby lost his fucking mind?” she asked in lieu of a greeting. I missed the days before caller ID when people would say hello before they yelled at you. I don't get yelled at often, but this was an unusual situation.

“Is Randall there?”

“Of course he’s here. He's the designer. Where else would he be two days before we open?”

“Better give him the phone.”

I heard background chatter in the busy costume shop and then the bump of the phone changing hands.

“If Toby pulls another trick like this on me, I’m going to slap his pretty face,” Randall growled. “Cuteness only gets you so far in life.”

“I know this sucks. Toby already got a verbal face slapping from me. His idea is good, hell, it’s more than good, but his timing is rotten.”

“Rotten? We’ve been breaking our backs to get this show finished. At the exact moment that we see the light at the end of the tunnel, we get told it’s a damn train!”

Ah, theatre people. So delightfully dramatic.

“What can I do to help?” I asked. I can’t sew to save my life, but costuming isn’t all about sewing.

“We need two more makeup kits, and I’m busy trying to pull costumes from stock for those television people.”

“I can get them. Tell me what you need.”

“Just stop by the shop on your way out. I’ll write it down,” Randall said. His anger was fading, which let me hear exactly how exhausted he was.

“What else do you need?” I asked, wanting to help as much as I could. I’ve met artistic directors who don’t leap into the fray; people who are content to stay in their posh offices and don’t even know all of their employees names. I’ve never been a member of that club.

“Another pair of hands. Any hands. We have to get the new clothes distressed, and I don’t have a single person to do it. I can show them an example. It’s not hard.”

The zombies' costumes were heavily distressed, ripped and painted to look tattered and dirty. It was amazing what one could do with paint and scissors.

“I’ll find you someone. You want them today or tomorrow?”

“Better be today, mein Capitan. The paint has to be dry before opening. If you can get someone here fast, we might get it dry in time for dress rehearsal tomorrow.”

Ready for dress would be preferable. We have an audience for final dress, and I didn’t want to ruin their experience by having two zombies wandering around looking like they arrived fresh from the country club. We were lucky our costume storage was in the building’s basement rather than in a warehouse across town as some theatres had to deal with. It would save time. Time was quickly becoming our most precious commodity.

After hanging up the phone, I left my office to talk to Jessica. If I was going to be out shopping for makeup, I could manage without my assistant for a few hours.

“How would you like to do me a favor?” I said in a cheerful voice, gleefully rubbing my hands together.

“You can’t fool me with the chipper act.” Jessica raised one of her eyebrows at me. “What fresh hell do you have planned for me now?”

A flair for the dramatic was not found solely in the production studio. My assistant had it in spades. She also had the questionable ability to find a song about whatever the subject at hand was, and gleefully sing it. She’d cheerfully disrupted many a dry staff meeting by doing exactly that. I never minded, as those meetings could drag on and on. I suspect she pulls this prank just to keep me in good spirits, and I secretly enjoyed it. I don’t tell her, though. She really doesn’t need any encouragement.

“Thanks to our intrepid new marketing director, Randall has to add two costumes to the show. He needs a pair of hands to distress them. He said it wasn’t hard to do and he’ll show you the basics.”

“That sounds rather fun,” Jessica said thoughtfully. “It certainly isn’t as bad as the last time you asked me to help a shop out.”

It had been a stupid decision on my part. While we have talented women who work in sets and props, Jessica and power tools don’t get along. She glared at me for a week after she took the skin off of her fingertip with a belt sander.

Jessica packed up for the day and walked a flight down with me to the costume shop. While the sets and props shop was located in an old warehouse so they had more room to build, the costume shop was in the same building as the business offices and rehearsal halls. It was a sensible placement. While sets can be built away from the stage and trucked in, costumers needed ready access to the actors to make certain the costumes fit properly.

Dropping Jessica at the shop to get her hands-on lesson in distressing clothes, I picked up the list of makeup needed from a harried-looking costume designer and then headed to the parking garage. Caufield's would have everything we needed and it was down the road at the corner of Main and Tenth. A local novelty and ready-made costume shop, Caufield's did big business every Halloween. It was also one of the only places in Louisville to get theatrical makeup.

Traffic was a nightmare, but the crisp fall day was pleasant. I found I didn’t mind that it took twice as long to get to the store as I had expected. With the sun shining and a little Mumford and Sons on the radio, even the traffic couldn’t get me down.

I’ve only been to Caufield's a handful of times, to get gag gifts for bachelor parties or accessories for Halloween costumes. Walking into the corner shop always made me feel like a little kid again. They had everything from Marti Gras beads to plastic vomit, from Santa suits to fake lottery tickets. Now there was an idea. Maybe I should get Toby a fake lottery ticket as a special thank you for his belated publicity fiasco. Seems like his birthday is coming up soon. I’ll have to ask Jessica.

The salesclerk did not recognize me, but she recognized the organization on the tax exempt form.

“You don’t usually shop for Actors,” she said, checking my name against the computer records to make certain I was authorized to use the company's purchase order. “Everything all right with Frances?”

“She’s fine, just busy. We open Friday night, so she has her hands full.”

Taking my shopping list, the clerk began retrieving the items from the large glass case that did double duty as a service counter. Looking over some of the prices, I could see why they kept these things close to the register. Theatrical makeup does not come cheap.

“I don’t have any more of the Ben Nye bruise color wheels,” the clerk said. “But I can substitute the Mehron. They are a bit cheaper, and honestly, the yellow is better. It’s not as bright and acidic.”

Mehron was a professional brand, so I didn’t mind the change. The bruise color wheels had been Frances’ idea. It was a way to get our zombies some good colors all in one package without it costing us an arm and a leg. The wheels were traditionally used for making an actor look like they had a bruise, but worked equally well for zombie effects. It was just the thing to make sunken eyes and haggard cheeks. The Mehron wheel had black, a dark reddish purple, green, blood red, and a yellow which was indeed less intense than the Ben Nye wheels I had seen. The only real difference was there was no blue, but it shouldn’t be a problem.

“They’ll be fine,” I told the clerk.

She finished gathering what I needed. Tubes of gray and a sickly green base, eye pencils, stipple sponges, and the like. The grand total was pricey, but such is the cost of doing business. I paid for the purchase with a company credit card. Then I used my own money to buy a fake lottery ticket.

Toby had it coming.

By the time I had dropped the makeup off for Randall and headed for my office, it was after six o’clock. An hour past quitting time. I’d have a busy day tomorrow trying to whip two new zombies into shape. I might as well call it a night. Walking into my office to grab my suit jacket, I noticed a cardboard delivery box on my desk. I wasn’t expecting anything, but maybe the scripts for the third show had come in. Since Jessica wasn’t at her desk, the delivery person may have dropped it into the first office he came across.

The package was addressed to me personally, so it wasn’t the scripts. There was no return address and the postmark was local. Curious, I grabbed a letter opener to slit the tape.

A moment later, I dropped the package on the desk with a thump as I took a step back in shock. Creeping back to peek through the flaps again, I found I had not been imagining things. The only item in the box was a dead cat.

Two

“Why do you think it isn’t a real postmark?” I asked one of the police officers.

“The color is off and they misspelled the name of our fine city. They must have been in a hurry if they didn’t run a spell check before printing a fake label.”

One of the theatre’s security guards, Carl, leaned in with me to take another look at the fake mailing label. Sure enough, it read “Loisville.” Carl had to peer at the package for a moment as his eyesight isn’t what it used to be. He’s an older gentleman, like most of our security staff from Brinks. It’s not their job to accost hooligans directly, but to keep an eye on things and phone the police when necessary. Carl had taken one glance at my unpleasant gift and called in the authorities.

“Did you notice anyone suspicious come into the building?” I asked Carl.

“No, I was doing rounds. The new receptionist was at the entrance on the ground level. To be honest, anyone with a clipboard and a delivery hat could walk right in by acting like they know where they’re going. This isn’t the most secure building and that’s a fact.”

He was right. While many parts of the theater building had doors with keypads which required access codes, during office hours, all one had to do was walk through the main entrance and hop on the elevator to access the business offices. I was not in the habit of locking my office during the day. Maybe I should be.

“Any idea who might have done this, Sir?” One of the officers waved a hand at the box on my desk.

“I have an idea,” I admitted. “But it’s a hunch. I have no proof at all.”

“Even if it’s just a hunch, you’d better tell us.” The taller officer made a note on his smartphone. “We can put it in the report, so if they try something funny, there will be a record of past issues.”

Issues. Such a civilized word for a dead cat.

“There was a woman I went on a date with last month,” I began to explain.

“It’s always a woman, isn’t it?” The tall policeman waggled his eyebrows at me and then chuckled.

I did not care for the sexist comment, but I decided not to argue the point with an officer of the law who was trying to help me. One must choose one’s battles. The same woman that instilled in me a respect for other people, regardless of race or gender, also taught me about choosing battles. My mother was an exceptional person.

“The woman I went on a date with goes by the name of Raven Starlight,” I continued. “She’s odd. Dresses like a cosplay witch from Harry Potter. Has a fake British accent. Talked all night about being a witch and doing magic.”

“One of them Wiccans?” Officer Sexist said, rolling his eyes.

“I don’t think so. I have had several employees who are pagan, and all of them are quite sensible people.”

The officer had confused me. I don’t understand what religion has to do with any of this. Being an atheist, I don’t understand why people both turn to and hide behind religion at all. It seems like a bunch of excuses to me. My life depends on me, not some dude standing on a cloud behind pearly gates. My mind was wandering. Well, finding a dead cat on one’s desk will do that to a person.

“If you don’t mind my asking,” the shorter officer gestured at me with the hand holding his cell phone, “why did you ask the woman out if she was so weird?”

“I didn’t. She won a date with me at the theatre’s fundraiser at the beginning of the season.”

I’m still pissed at Toby for the auction. Yes, the fundraiser was a breadwinner, but the hour I spent at dinner in a nice restaurant with Raven-the-faux-witch was hell. Sticking my hand in my right trouser pocket, I touched the fake lottery ticket and had to suppress a smile. Your time will come, Toby. Oh, yes it will.

Perhaps I was a bit overly dramatic myself. Working in the theatre does that to a person.

“And why do you think this woman might be behind the package?” the shorter officer asked.

“She caused me trouble here at work after the date. Called me at least twenty times a day...my assistant had to screen my calls. Then Raven showed up in person twice.”

“I had to ask her to leave the last time she was here,” Carl added. “She started spouting some nonsense about her and the boss here being soul mates. Got angry when the boss explained it was just a charity thing, and he wasn’t looking for a girlfriend.”

While I actually am in the market for a girlfriend, the Raven option was not even on the table. The woman acted as if she had serious mental delusions. Not the sort of thing I was looking for in a relationship. My life as an theatrical artistic director was fantastical enough.

“Some people would have called the police at that point,” Officer Sexist said.

“She left when Carl arrived. The phone calls stopped. To be honest, I thought the situation with her was over. Then the cat showed up. I can’t prove it was her, but she is the only person in my life who seems unstable enough to leave a dead cat here addressed to me.”

“There’s isn’t much we can do in this situation other than write up a report.” The short policeman with the phone made a few more notes on it. “If anything else out of the ordinary happens, or if the woman shows up again, call the police. If that Raven woman did this, then she’s gone from stalking behavior to violence, and she could be dangerous. In the meantime, don’t take chances. Lock your doors at night and so forth.”

“Excellent advice,” I said, mentally hoping the situation wouldn’t come to that. “I’ll be sure to call if I have any further trouble.”

The police officers left soon after, and Carl kindly took the grisly package to the dumpster to dispose of it. A glance at the clock showed me it was after eight. Time to go home, grab some dinner, and make sure my windows and doors were all locked. Good times.

It had been a long and difficult day. Once home, I felt too tired to do much of anything about dinner. Peanut butter sandwiches and a cold beer. Welcome to the bachelor life. I think what had most bothered me about the entire Raven situation was that I would love to have someone to share my life with. Not her, of course. Never her. I’ve been single for three years now. The problem isn’t the will, it’s the time. Being the senior person of a business takes time and work. At the end of the day, there isn’t much opportunity for meeting new people. I scowled at my second peanut butter sandwich, wondering what it would be like to have a nice dinner waiting for me when I got home. I’m not looking for a woman to be my house slave, my mom taught me better than that. It’s the partnership that entices me. Having someone at home to take care of you when you have to work late, and then being the person who does the same when the tables are turned. Someone you can count on, who would miss you and worry about you if you didn’t show up on time. If you were delayed, for example, by someone leaving a dead cat on your desk.

My melancholy mood was interrupted by the ringing of my cell phone. Fumbling it out of my pocket, I flung it to the floor before I could answer it. A peek at the caller ID told me Jessica was calling.

“Sorry, Jessica,” I said when I answered. I may not like caller ID, but it doesn’t keep me from using it to my advantage. “I dropped the phone.”

“I’m sorry to call you at home at this hour,” Jessica began. “I wanted you to know I’m going to be late in the morning. Mr. Darcy is missing, and I want to put up some fliers. He’s gotten out before, so I’m not too worried. But I’ll feel better if I do the fliers.”

It took me a long moment to remember who Mr. Darcy was. He wasn't a person...he was Jessica’s cat. A friendly cat that was the same smoky gray as the one I found dead in a cardboard box. I was now convinced this entire situation was Raven’s work. Jessica had been the one who protected me from the onslaught of telephone calls after my faux date with the madwoman, a fact that may have angered Raven to the point of retaliation.

“Jessica, are you alone, or is your son still visiting?”

“Jay? No, he was only here for last weekend. He’s gone back to school now.”

“Do me a favor, check and make sure all of your doors and windows are locked, and then wait for me. Don’t open the door for anyone else. I’m coming over.”

“Andrew, what’s going on?” she asked, her voice resonant with fresh worry.

“I’ll explain when I get there. Lock the doors.”

After her promise to check the locks, I put my second sandwich in the trash and poured out my half-finished beer. Double checking my own locks, I peered around the dimly lit street as I walked to my car. The Germantown area of Louisville has a few houses with driveways, but mine is not one of them. I have never before felt afraid in my quiet neighborhood. Thanks to a crazy stalker, I was worried now. At five foot ten and fairly fit, I could handle myself in a crisis. Despite this, my pace quickened as I neared the car and hurried to get inside, locking the doors almost as soon as my butt hit the car seat.

Finding a dead cat and delivering it was one thing. Breaking into my assistant’s house, killing her cat, and boxing it up was an entirely different level of crazy. One I did not want to meet alone in the middle of the night, no matter how manly I was.

The drive to Jessica’s house in Butchertown was a short one. I didn’t have much time to worry about how I was going to break the news. I knew it would hit her hard. Jessica has two photographs on her desk in matching frames. One was of her son who studied pre-law at Indiana University. The other was Mr. Darcy.

Her face was pale as she let me in the door and locked it behind me.

“Andrew, what’s going on?”

“Come sit down with me,” I said, taking her hand and leading her over to the sofa. There were already tears in her eyes waiting to fall. She was a smart woman. She knew I had only bad news to share.

“Just tell me.” Her voice was strong despite the unshed tears.

I took both her hands in mine before I began. “When I got back from Caufield’s, there was a package on my desk. I don’t know how or why, but it had a dead cat in it. I didn’t make the connection to how much it looked like Mr. Darcy until you called me.”

“It was that crazy bitch, wasn’t it?” Jessica demanded, the moisture in her eyes beginning to run down her cheeks. “That Harry Potter bitch who keeps bothering you.”

Jessica began weeping in earnest. I gathered her into a hug and held her while she cried. A single mom with her only child gone to college, she had adopted the cat for company. She doted on it like a mother with a new baby. I might not be a cat person, but I can understand why my coworker and friend would grieve for her pet as if it were a lost child. Hell, I had liked the cat as well. He was such a friendly thing, always coming to me for a snuggle and a belly rub when Jessica had me over for dinner now and again. I hated having to bring her this news and, at this moment, I hated Raven Starlight.

“I’m so sorry, Jessica,” I said when she, at last, stopped crying and slipped from my arms. “I know how much Mr. Darcy meant to you.”

“He was such a good boy...so gentle and funny. I don’t understand people. I don’t understand how anyone could hurt such a helpless baby.”

Tears started in her eyes again, but she blinked them away. For my sake, I’m certain. I expect she’d have a long cry when she could get rid of me, but I wasn’t willing to leave her alone when a crazy woman had killed her pet.

“About coming in late tomorrow--”

“Obviously I don’t need to put up fliers,” she interrupted. “I can come to work on time. Are you sure it was Mr. Darcy?”

“I know Mr. Darcy, Jessica. It had the same white spot under its chin and the same white front foot. But you misunderstood me. I don’t want you to come in tomorrow at all. In fact, I want you to take a week off.”

“Andrew, I’m going to miss my sweet boy, but I don’t have to take a whole week off of work. It's almost opening night. You're going to need help."

“It’s not about Mr. Darcy. I think you were right. I think that woman, Raven Starlight, did this. The police can’t be much help unless she tries to hurt one of us, but I’m not willing to wait. I’d like you to take a week off and get out of this house. Go to Bloomington to see your son, or up to Indy to visit your dad. If that woman is brazen enough to steal and kill your cat, we can’t imagine what else she’s capable of. I want you out of the line of fire for a week. I'll manage without you.”

“That Raven woman must be pissed about me not letting her talk to you on the phone.”

“Probably so. But you were doing your job, brilliantly I might add. It’s not your fault a crazy woman took offense to us. I’ve spoken to the police. If she tries anything else, I’ll speak to them again. Hopefully, this will blow over by the time you get back.”

I didn’t want to leave until Jessica was packed and in her car--not with the threat of a crazy cat-killing woman hanging over us. While she threw a bag together, I sat on the sofa with my phone. The cell phone wielding officer had left me his phone number, and encouraged me to contact him if I discovered anything else. By the time I had sent a text message to mention the dead cat belonged to a friend and coworker, Jessica was ready to go.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Julianne lives in Indy with two cats, two ferrets, and one fiancé. She lived in Louisville for over twenty years, and loves setting her stories in her old hometown. Julianne loves combining her theatre experience with her writing. She is a fan of cheap coffee and expensive chocolate.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
My favorite play that I designed costumes for was a production of Night of the Living Dead. From helping the community volunteers with Zombie University, to finding that classic trench coat look for Barbara, I had a ball. I wanted to combine that wonderful experience with in a suspense horror/farce.
Q. Tell us about the cover and the inspiration for it.
A.
When I worked on the stage play version of Night of the Living Dead, as a joke for the cast and crew I took the artwork from the program of that production and made a parody of it. Thus the "Teatime" idea was born. The playfulness of my old parody could not be forgotten.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
I have a website at JulianneQJohnson.com. In my blog I have writing news and tips. You can find out about all my books on the site and read some sneak peeks. I also have a newsletter sign up there, and everyone who gets the newsletter gets a free eBook of short stories.

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Tale of passion, shadows and vanishing smiles
Jake's Life: A Pursuit of...
"A man pursuing an unknown perfection"