Christmas is coming, and New Year too. But then, so are those early snows and sub-zero temperatures, just in time for a true blizzard to hit on Christmas weekend.
While Pete, the Chief of Police, is on vacation, spearphishers, catphishers, and a tourist that hopes to be an ice-fisher run amok. The second string of the police department is in charge, and that leads to more trouble than Annie and her friends can handle.
The FBI is called in once more, but will they be able to figure out who is targeting Annie? Is it someone from Chelsea? Someone from out of town? Someone who just began to work for Annie who has access to every building at all hours of the day or night?
And is it true that Annie has criminals on her staff? Her trusted management staff?
Tiger Lily and her siblings try to keep up with everything. However, their attention is split. They spend a lot of time with their friend, Cyril, who believes his human, Pete, has left him forever.
In the middle of it all, Annie hosts her entire family, ages 18 months through, well, the mature ages. Family meals and holiday parties on The Avenue don’t take a back seat to trouble. They become the center to which everyone can gather and feel safe.
Author: Kathleen Thompson
Excerpt from Phishing.
An airport taxi pulled into the parking lot of the KaliKo Inn and disgorged its passenger.
Henrie stood at the top of the porch steps. He was wrapped in a warm coat, hat and gloves. The wind was brisk. The snow had stopped coming down for the moment. A brief moment. He walked down the steps and reached his hand out in welcome as he approached the taxi. “Welcome to the KaliKo Inn.”
The passenger, now the arriving bed and breakfast guest, took his hand and responded, “You must be Henrie. Blaine Harrison Jones. I’m here to fish!”
Thus started a several minute period in which Henrie and the driver removed bags, boxes, crates and several unpackaged items from the taxi and set them upon the porch on both sides of the front door.
Blaine stood to the side, moving further and further along the porch as more items took the space in which he stood. From time to time he would slap his gloved hands together as if to keep the blood moving.
As the piles mounted, Henrie was thankful he had stored the porch furniture rather than merely covering the pieces for the winter. There would not have been room had he not. And the porch was quite large.
Blaine Harrison Jones had arrived to fish in Chelsea, a small resort town on the sunset side of a Great Lake. A rambling forested state park surrounded the town on two sides. Nestled into the park and the lake, Chelsea could pretend to be separate from the rest of the world. Only one highway dared to encroach upon its borders, and that highway only glanced by it to the east. Anyone coming to town had to exit the highway onto an access road.
The town circle, a mile from the highway, had just one building, a historic brick Italianate two story structure, which housed the town hall and the police department.
Driving around the town circle, one turned onto Sunset Avenue, a broad street with a median wide enough for benches, game tables and a walkway. Known simply as The Avenue by locals, it traveled one long town block, ending at the convergence of several tourist attractions.
The KaliKo Inn held a privileged position at the end of The Avenue. Just past the Inn, right to left, were the main entrance to a state campground, the main entrance to the state park, a town park with a playground and a brilliant white-sand beach, a parking lot free to anyone and used by everyone, a smaller private beach, another tip of the state park, and a small deep water marina.
Sunset Avenue was named for another tourist attraction. At the right time of day, which changed with the seasons, the median, parks and parking lot would fill with locals and tourists taking in the sunsets that were part of the town’s allure. Indeed, even during the winter months, the area would be filled. Walkers strode up and down the beach or headed out to the lighthouse with cameras to capture the reds, oranges and yellows that seemed to last forever then fade all too quickly.
While tourist traffic was heavier from spring through fall, many winter sports kept the town busy year-round. Blaine Harrison Jones was here to indulge in one of the town’s prominent winter sports, ice fishing, made possible due to the numerous small lakes in the area.
Chelsea maintained its tourist allure by staying just a little off the beaten path. The airport taxi that was becoming lighter by the minute was in fact a small airport bus out of a regional airline hub in Marsh Haven, a town about twenty miles north of Chelsea.
The driver huffed and puffed as he lugged gear and luggage onto the porch. He was happy to finish, take the tip and get on the road.
Henrie, also puffing a little in his own formal way, saw the driver on his way and leaned against the rail to look at his new guest and the profusion of “luggage” in his wake. This was a high-budget expedition.
Henrie, an elegant man, left a budding career as a manager of a five-star hotel in New York for the pace of this small resort community’s premier bed and breakfast. Now, as chief cook, bottle washer, toilet bowl cleaner and concierge, his always-just-so attire, perfect diction, and hard-to-place accent could seem out of place. For some reason, they did not.
Blaine Jones appeared to be in his mid-thirties. He wore two layers of cardigans, black over gray, under a white fleece waistcoat. Black paisley socks showed underneath the hem of his black denim slacks with classic, polished leather shoes that appeared to never touch the snow. A blue and white batik scarf fashionably tied around his neck, a black Astrakhan cap and black leather gloves finished the look. Classic rich boy.
“Mr. Jones, you are certainly the best provisioned ice fisherman to stay at the Inn. You must have a great deal of experience. Is this your first time to fish in Chelsea?”
“I’ve never held a rod, reel, hook or worm in my hands before. Not once.”
Henrie smiled briefly, politely held his tongue and looked around. He was surrounded by gear, and quite frankly, he did not know what to do with it. He envisioned the lovely library cluttered with this…debris. Hopefully, he asked Blaine, “Have you availed yourself of a rented vehicle of any type?”
“No. I thought you would have something. This is your area of expertise, is it not?”
“I see. Well. I will certainly make some arrangements this afternoon.”
Henrie vowed to call Frank to ask for the loan of a moving trailer. And some skids. And possibly a forklift. Definitely a forklift. He was not going to carry these items any further.
From the sidewalk came a hearty, “Henrie, how ya doin’ today? Cold enough fer ya?” A tall, stocky, warmly-clad man with a couple of days of stubble made his way to the porch steps.
Henrie gave a silent sigh of relief. “Boone, it is wonderful to see you. You have no idea.”
Boone stepped onto the porch and looked around. “Well, looky here at this pile of stuff. Hi, young feller. I’m Boone!”
“How do you do, Boone. Blaine Harrison Jones. I’m here to do some fishing.”
“Fishin’ on the ice?”
“Yes. I guess that would be how you say it.”
“And how you gonna get all this here stuff out to the lake?”
“Well, Henrie and I were just beginning to discuss that.”
Boone, a big man, rough on the exterior but soft as a truffle on the inside, looked at Henrie with understanding. “Henrie, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you flustered-like afore this.”
“I do not believe I have been confronted with this issue before. I had thought to call Frank to borrow a trailer and perhaps some moving equipment.”
“That Frank’s purty busy gettin’ that store of his’n ready fer the open house. I don’t think he can part with that stuff any dang soon.”
“Well, then, I am sure we will come up with something. I will call the car rental company and see if they have an appropriate vehicle for, um, getting this equipment out to the lake.
”Boone looked at Henrie, then looked over the of equipment on the porch. He turned to Blaine. “You a’fixin’ to take most of that stuff out ter the ice on that there sled?”
“Yes. I understand that’s the biggest and the best. Mother would not have purchased it otherwise.”
“It sure is a big’un. And some of these other things are purty long. Henrie, you ain’t agonna find what you need here in town. You call up there to Dodd’s in Marsh Haven. Tell ‘em you want one of them big ole four-wheel drive pickups. Tell ‘em you needs a long bed, and with this snow an’ all, tell ‘em you needs a cover over the bed.”
Henrie looked as relieved as he would allow himself to look. “Thank you, Boone; that is very helpful.”Henrie picked up two of the bags that he assumed we
re personal luggage and started for the door. “Come, Mr. Jones. Let us get in out of the cold for now, and I will make some coffee for you before calling for the vehicle.”
As Henrie went through the door, Blaine stood a moment on the porch. He looked at Boone. “I didn’t expect to meet someone as formal as Henrie in a fishing atmosphere. I would like to fit in as much as possible, and I don’t know whether to speak like him or like you. How do folks here normally speak?”
Boone looked at him in confusion. “Well, gosh, we just opens our mouths and lets ‘er fly.”
“Oh. Well. I shall do my best!”
Boone picked up two more pieces of luggage on his way into the Inn. Blaine, looking around and finding no one else to pick up the last of his personal bags, picked it up himself and followed.
As he entered the foyer, he dropped the bag with the others and looked around. He saw a silver tray with freshly baked cookies and helped himself to one. “White chocolate and macadamia nuts.” he said. “One of my favorites.”
Boone picked a couple of cookies off the tray and bit into both of them at once. “Fresh baked.”
Henrie was quick with the coffee. He walked into the foyer from a side room with a tray, two cups of steaming brew, sugars and creamers. “Mr. Jones, Boone, please help yourselves.” He set the tray on a table, turned and said, “I shall make that call now, Mr. Jones, then show you to your room.”
Blaine sank into a comfortable chair and looked around. From his vantage point, he could see into both the library on his left and the dining room on his right. “This is quite an attractive place,” he said to Boone.
“It shore is. This is the first time I’s been inside. It looks right nice.”
“My home is so boring compared to this,” continued Blaine. “All of my walls are painted the same color. Mother says it’s ‘eggshell,’ but to me it’s just boring. Of course, I like blue, and that seems to be the dominant color. But no room is the same.”
“I see whatcha mean. That there room is light purple and that one there is pinkish.”
“I think that might be called ‘rose.’ And all of the windows! I’ll bet on a sunny day it’s really pretty in here.”
“We ain’t seen much sun fer severl days, an’ I ‘magine we won’t be seein’ it fer quite a while. You know, we’s known for our sunsets, but we ain’t seen one of those fer quite a while.”
Blaine then noticed the cats. The big cats. They sat on the middle step leading up to the second floor landing, and they were staring at him.
“Those cats. Are they safe?”
“Oh, yeah. That there one on the left is Kali and the one on ta other side is Ko. They’s the ones whose names are on the sign.”
“Oh. The KaliKo Inn. Now I get it. Mother made the reservations. She didn’t say anything about cats.”
“They’s cats in all Annie’s places. These two ‘uns, they don’t allays leave this place. They like to stay to home. But I sees ‘em on the porch ever’ now and then. They’s big, that’s fer shore.”
Henrie entered the foyer. “Mr. Jones, the car rental agency is checking with their various partner agencies. They will call back shortly. For now, allow me to show you around the Inn and get you settled into your room.”
Henrie showed Blaine the coffee room, where all types of coffees, teas and hot chocolates were available. He pointed out the cupboard with snacks and told him about the fresh snacks and truffles that would be available every afternoon.
“And please make use of the refrigerator or freezer if you care to bring anything in. Should you bring fish home from the lake, please allow me to help you store them in a more appropriate place.”
Henrie gestured to the second floor landing. “There is a notebook available for you at the desk, and,” he paused while walking toward the library, “in here you will find books, games, of course this large-screen television with a library of movies. These areas, and the all-season porch, through that doorway, are available to you at any hour of the day or night.”
Boone had followed them on the short tour. “Well, dang! This here is a right fine place, Henrie. No wonders folks likes to stay here.”
“Thank you, Boone. Now, Mr. Jones, I will take your luggage upstairs. You may join me in the elevator or take the stairs to the second floor.”
“I’ll take the stairs, Henrie.” Blaine walked off, hands in his pockets, leaving Henrie and Boone to deal with the five bags.
Henrie picked up two bags and Boone took three, holding the handles of two in one hand. He followed Henrie to the elevator. Henrie nodded his thanks.
Blaine waited for them as they got off the elevator. “Your guests must watch a lot of television. Is the one on the landing here used often?”
“Yes, depending on the number of guests. On occasion more than one large group gathers to watch a sporting event or movie. Each guest room has a television as well, for your private viewing pleasure.”
Henrie led Blaine to the guest room overlooking the lake, Boone trailing behind. Blaine went immediately to the French doors and looked out. “It’s probably a bit nippy for using the patio, but the view is outstanding, Henrie.”
“I am so glad you like it. Now, please take your time getting settled. I will be downstairs awaiting that call.”
“Thank you, Henrie, and you too, Boone. I hope to see you again.” Blaine held his hand out to Boone.
“You have a good time a’fishin’, Blaine. I hope you enjoy our little town.”
Henrie and Boone left the room, closing the door as they went. Blaine went again to the patio door, taking in the snow-covered beach and the white capped lake. As he turned to unpack, he noticed the two cats. Somehow they had gotten into the room and they now sat on the bed, looking at him with unblinking eyes.
“Well, um, hello there, cats. Kitties. One of you is Kali and the other Ko, right?”
The two big girls didn’t move or blink.
“Kitties want a treat?” asked Blaine, clearly nervous. He glanced around the room and saw a packet of nuts. Moving slowly, keeping his back to the wall and his eyes on the cats, he got to the packet, opened it and tossed a few nuts on the bed.
The two big girls, whose eyes had followed Blaine to the packet of nuts, remained still, not even looking at the nuts now scattered on the bed.
Unnerved, Blaine said, “Shoo!”
The two girls remained still.
A little louder, he said again, “Shoo!”
And then again, even louder, punctuating the word with hands waving in the air, he nearly shouted, “Shoo!”
Kali and Ko, disgusted, stared for a few seconds more. They slowly rose, jumped off the bed, and tails twitching and hindquarters waving side to side, they walked out of the room through a cat door he had not noticed. He saw a lock on his side of the door, however, and he quickly snapped it shut.
He looked around the room once more, silently approved his surroundings, and took his time unpacking his bags. The room contained a long, low dresser with six drawers, a taller dresser with six more drawers, and a locking armoire with room for hanging clothes and additional drawers. Even with five bags of clothing and personal articles, there was plenty of space for him to unpack everything.
When finished, he put his now empty bags under the bed and out of sight, took a final look around, and left to explore the Inn on his own, checking once again that the cat door was secure.