Once again, Chelsea plays host to a large sporting event, the Lakeside Triathlon. Given the town’s history, what could possibly go wrong?
Annie’s friend, Jeff, brings a friend to spend the weekend. What could an FBI agent and a DEA agent – both “on vacation” – be up to?
Georgia’s ex-husband is in town. He brings with him a dangerous plan involving their daughter, Little Fred. Speckles, the nanny-kittty, has to seek the advice and council of Tiger Lily and her siblings.
On the relationship front, Annie runs into a bit of a problem making nice with the mother of her very special friend.
And what is Tiger Lily up to? Has she broken through a communication barrier? Will she finally be able to “talk” to Annie?
The weather in Chelsea is rainy, soggy and steamy. But life always goes on.
Excerpt From Chasing A Butterfly
Chapter 1: Trouble In Paradise
Anyone other than Henrie would enjoy a Monday morning without complications. Henrie was bored. The guests from the week before were gone, the last having left Sunday morning. The rooms needed for today were ready; no one was on hand for breakfast.
The windows were open, letting the warm August breeze flow through the first floor of the house.
Henrie sat at the kitchen table and sipped a second cup of coffee. The kitchen smelled of cinnamon and apples. Breakfast was ready and stayed warm in a steam tray.
Perhaps he should call Annie and let her know it was ready. Perhaps he should let her sleep. After all, it was quite late when she got in last night.
Henrie sighed. Then he started. Tiger Lily sat in the doorway to the kitchen. She could have been there for a while. She stared at Henrie, impassive, and he now stared back.
Finally, he said, “Good morning, Tiger Lily. Would you like a treat?”
Tiger Lily didn’t move; she didn’t blink. Had she blinked, Henrie would have gotten up to get a treat. A blink would have meant, “Yes, please.” The stare meant, “Nothing good is happening here.”
Henrie sighed again. This was going to be a hard Monday after all.
Henrie was the manager of the KaliKo Inn, a bed and breakfast in the resort town of Chelsea. Chelsea was nestled into a Great Lake on one side and a state park on two others. Cut off from the rest of the world with the exception of an access highway coming in from the east, it had the feel of a village, forgotten in time. Indeed, all of the buildings on Sunset Avenue were constructed post-Civil War when the lumber industry was booming.
Sunset Avenue derived its name from the brilliant sky visible every night over the lake. Known by the locals simply as The Avenue, it started at the town circle and ended, one long city block later, at the expanse of public parking lot and city park that led directly to the lake.
The KaliKo Inn sat at the corner of that expanse, situated on a plot of land that included its own white sand beach. A southern-style mansion from the 1880s, the Inn was the largest and most prominent of the B&Bs in town.
Henrie was a private man. He came to Chelsea from New York, having managed a five star hotel for several years, yet he was perfectly happy to be the chief cook, concierge, toilet bowl cleaner and baby sitter for this small town B&B.
He appeared to read minds; he was ready for anything that was needed before a request was actually made. His accent was untellable. Some thought French, some Rwandan, some Cameroon.
Henrie was ageless. He could be in his thirties, forties or fifties, depending on your perspective. Were you looking at that handsome, unlined face? Did the gray in his ultra-short hair or finely trimmed goatee and mustache catch your eye? Or was it the maturity, the presence, the intelligence that caught your attention? In any situation, it was a fine package, placed in the image of a tall, muscular, coffee-colored man.
Henrie lived in an apartment on the main level of the KaliKo Inn. Annie, the person to whom his mind turned, lived in the large apartment that took all of the third floor.
Annie owned the KaliKo Inn and the building to the east, a long, two-story brick building built to hold storefronts needed to keep the lumber industry going in the 1880s. Now it held five businesses that supported the tourist industry of the twenty-first century.
Henrie got up from the table. He pulled several small dishes from a cupboard; from the refrigerator he retrieved cooked bacon. He crumbled several pieces of bacon into each dish.
Tiger Lily, a pretty gray and brown tabby cat with soft green eyes, watched him, impassive, from the kitchen door.
Henrie carried the handful of dishes, seven in all, with a practiced efficiency. He walked from the kitchen to the dining room, leaned down to pull up a cloth covering a nearby table, and placed the dishes carefully on the floor underneath the table.
He stood, straightened the sign on the table – the sign that declared the covered table to be the domain of the Seven Cats Detective Agency – and looked back at Tiger Lily. She remained impassive but now sat facing the dining room, still looking at Henrie.
Henrie stared back but was polite enough to blink on occasion. He did not want her to think he was trying to win the staring contest.
“Where are your siblings this morning?”
Tiger Lily seemed to incline her head toward the stairway, but at that moment, several cats could be heard making their way into the dining room. Kali and Ko led the way, going straight to Henrie to demand attention. Henrie happily leaned down to give it.
“I missed you girls. It is so good to have you back.”
Mo and Mr. Bean pushed Kali out of the way and rose to put their feet on Henrie’s left leg. He leaned down to cup first Mo’s head, then Mr. Bean’s.
Sassy Pants dropped to the floor in front of him, requiring Henrie to lean further down to rub her stomach.
Little Socks jumped lightly to the top of the Seven Cats table, looked at Henrie with her bright eyes and blinked once.
Henrie turned again as Annie walked into the dining room. It least it looked like Annie. Her straight, dark hair, probably at 50% gray, had the typical bounce. She wore her trademark capris and colorful flowing top. The sandals, practical, with a one-inch heel and good arch support, matched the outfit.
He wasn’t sure Annie was actually inside the body. The spring in her step seemed to have sprung. Her walk was more like a trudge. Her face, beyond the cheekbones that hinted at American Indian ancestry, bore no expression.
Henrie, quite unlike Henrie, opened his arms, allowing Annie to walk into them. She leaned into his shoulder, arms around his waist, as he hugged her close for a brief moment. They parted, and he said, “You need coffee. Come.”
Annie sat at the kitchen table, a butcher block with bar stools around it, and allowed Henrie to serve. He put the coffee in front of her and opened the steam tray to dish out what would pass for breakfast today, a French toast casserole made with crusty French bread and baked apple slices with cinnamon and brown sugar.
In spite of her demeanor, Annie smiled and took in a deep breath.
“It’s good to be home, Henrie.”
“It is good to have you here. I was lonely. I missed you, and I missed the darlings, Kali and Ko especially.”
Kali and Ko purred and rubbed themselves on his ankles. They left cat hair on his pants legs in appreciation of his comments.
“Are the kids going to work this morning?”
Annie looked around the kitchen at the cats, all now on the floor, or on a counter top, or on top of the refrigerator. Sassy Pants sat at the kitchen sink and stared out the window, probably having caught sight of a chipmunk.
“I think not. I think we’ll all take a break today. I’ll probably go out later this morning, just to check in. Or maybe this afternoon.”
Annie sipped her coffee and ate her casserole. She put her fork down and held the cup with both hands, staring deeply into it. Then around at the cats. Then down at her plate. Then into her cup. Everywhere, it seemed to Henrie, but at him.
Finally, he could take it no longer.
“Annie, something has been troubling you for several weeks. I have tried not to read your mind, but I fear it is something not related to your angst this morning. So now, I have two things with which to be concerned on your behalf, and I do not know what those things are. It may not help you to talk about it, but it will certainly help me. Using your vernacular, spill!”