I am looking forward to the next one in the series.
It was spring in New Orleans, a beautiful April day, and Angus Cafferty had been dead for three months the afternoon Michael Quinn followed the widow, Gladys Simon, to The Cheshire Cat, an antiques and curio store on Royal Street.
The house itself, now a shop, was one of the few buildings that had survived the Great New Orleans Fire of 1788 that had destroyed 856 buildings—followed by the fire of 1794 that destroyed another 212. It was one of the only structures from the mid-1700s that remained on Royal Street. It had a two-storied facade, with an inner courtyard and balconies surrounding the building streetside. He knew the layout of the old building; the original parlor, study and dining rooms were set up as the shop's display area, while the old pantry was Danielle Cafferty's studio. The basement was not really a basement at all. This was New Orleans, and even on high ground, the basement was just the lowest level of the house. Six steps led up from the street, and courtyard entries led to the porches and the house. The shop's basement was filled with treasures Angus had collected and kept away from the view of others. Upstairs, above the store, were the office and a small apartment used by the Cafferty family. Billie McDougall slept in the attic, ever watchful, while a second street entry, which had once been a carriage house, was now a two-car garage.Following Gladys Simon was easy; Quinn was directly behind her and she was oblivious. He felt like a stalker, having to trail her like this, but when he'd discovered that morning that she had the bust, he'd tried to see her. According to her housekeeper, she refused to see anyone. No amount of cajoling had gotten him in.
He'd waited outside her house, but she'd run to her car, turning away when he'd begun to speak to her. All he could do was follow—and pray that she was going to the curio shop.
She approached the shop and so did Quinn, practically on her heels. As they entered, he saw Billie reading a book behind the counter and Jane Pearl, the clerk and bookkeeper, walking up the stairs, presumably going to her office. She paused, however, when she heard the door open.
Gladys Simon was unaware of her surroundings. She headed straight to the old mahogany bar that had been refashioned into a sales counter. Quinn stepped in right after her and feigned great interest in a grandfather clock that was situated just inside the front door.
Billie might have been perfectly cast as Riff Raff in a Rocky Horror remake or as an aging Ichabod Crane. He was as skinny as his mentor and employer had been robust. Billie had steel-gray eyes and a shock of neck-length white hair and was dressed in jeans and a Grateful Dead T-shirt. He must have been a startling and imposing figure to a Versace-clad and perfectly manicured matron like Gladys Simon.
But Gladys didn't seem to notice anything about Billie at all. She rushed over to him.
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