Title: Curses, Cats & Corpses
Author: M.L. Bonatch
Genre: Paranormal Cozy Mystery
A chatty black cat travels by tote bag to help solve a murder.
Hi, I’m Marissa Hale. I took a summer job as a cocktail waitress at a nightclub in Florida to escape the cold Pennsylvania winter, and to visit Gran. Although staying with Gran at the retirement condo with a bunch of nosey witches becomes the least of my worries when I stumble upon a corpse in the club freezer.
My coworker, Burton, is suspect number one. If you met him and looked into his dead eyes you might understand why. Unfortunately, I’m a close second suspect since it appears spelling was involved. My spelling skills might not be up to par—but I’m no killer.
I can only hope to avoid making this a permanent vacation in the slammer by solving this murder mystery with the help of Gran, a talking cat, and a demon with a real devil-doesn’t-care attitude.
“My name is Jasper.” The cat held up a paw as if he would actually give me time to respond. “No tag needed. I’ll remind you if you forget. Now, can you get me something better to eat than the slop dumped out here?”
I sat up, squeezed my eyes shut, then opened them again. My vision focused clearly on the cat, who continued to complain about the slim pickings around the dumpster. Perhaps it was a good thing the communication spell had never worked with Mulder. Who’d have thought animals had so much to gripe about?
What I would’ve told Jasper, if he’d let me get a word out, was that the club drew many vampires who didn’t eat and werewolves who ate just about anything. We were lucky to have much to toss out at all.
I held up a hand. “Stop. Ok, Jasper. I’m not sure how long this spell is going to last, if indeed it’s a spell and not a curse or,”—I pinched my arm—“I’m not passed out and hallucinating. But if you’ll stop talking, I’ll see what I can do about getting you something to eat.”
He cocked his head to the side. “Sounds good, human named Marissa. Let’s go.”
I smiled when he hopped on my lap. He was cute when he was quiet. “Mulder will love you.”
I hoped I wasn’t as wrong about that as I was about this being an easy summer job. Gran always said I went looking for trouble. Luckily, when I told Jasper I’d wake him once I found him something to eat, he curled up on my jacket in my locker and immediately fell asleep.
I headed toward the kitchen to search for food to sneak to the cat. No one was at the club yet, but other employees would arrive shortly. Although, for all I knew, the only thing anyone else might hear if he woke up and started complaining before I returned was meowing. The boss wouldn’t permit having a cat in the club. While not in human form, even weres and shifters couldn’t hang out here.
I shoved my face into the freezer to find something to defrost for Jasper while cooling my sweaty skin from the furnace of Florida heat. My plan backfired in a hurry when I came face to face with a frosty-looking corpse.
There were many things I might’ve expected to find in the extra freezer in the back room of the Night Moves kitchen, but a corpse wasn’t anywhere on that list. This day was getting better and better.
I dropped the lid of the chest freezer and stepped back to stare at the bulky appliance. First a talking cat and now a corpse? Maybe I’d imagined the dead man tucked in with the frozen food. Perhaps, as previously considered, this was all a blackout dream, and I was actually lying unconscious in the parking lot.
I stepped forward and pulled on the lid a second time. A sucking sound caught my attention as the seal broke, and the gust of cool air bursting out had me tensing as if the freezer had come alive. I hesitated in case the corpse might rise from the frozen depths. I might be a witch, but I was more of a scaredy cat than Jasper.
As the cold fog dissipated, I swallowed and stepped forward to peer over the edge of the freezer. Yep. There was still a dead guy nestled in among the frozen fish and hamburger patties. A hand touched my shoulder and I let out a scream. I spun to face my assailant. “Burton! What are you doing? You nearly frightened me to death.”
My coworker, Burton, peered over my shoulder. As usual, his black hair glistened with pomade. “Like that guy?”
Burton’s tone was as flat as if he’d just announced the time and not commented on the corpse in the freezer. His emotions were few, if they existed at all. I knew he was something different from the moment I met him; I just hadn’t figured out what yet.
I pressed my hand against my galloping heart. Now would’ve been a good time for me to be free of my own pesky emotions. So what if my feelings were often overabundant; I’d take that over being the sinister-looking, silent type, like Burton, even if it made him a good listener. He’d become my sounding board during my first month as I struggled to fit in. He, of all people, understood what it was like to be compared to everyone else and come up lacking.
The nice thing about having Burton as the closest thing to a best friend that Florida offered was that I didn’t have to worry about hurting his non-existent feelings. He didn’t give a bat’s eye what anyone else thought. He was just Burton. Sure, it made him come across a little creepy to some, but his utter indifference was his best feature and something I aspired to have for myself. So far, I was failing in my quest.
I looked at my creepy coworker, unsure of how to break our silent standoff. For once, Burton knew exactly what to say. He cocked his head to the side, appearing more curious than concerned. “What happened to him?”
“How am I supposed to know?” We both peered into the freezer.
“Wait. I think I know him.” I leaned forward far enough that my toes almost left the ground and tried to envision the corpse without the frosty coating. The thick chest curls peeking from the collar of his shirt and the seventies-style handlebar mustache confirmed it. “He lives in Gran’s retirement community. His name is Henry.” I grimaced at the memory of the pool. “He was wearing a lot less clothing the last time I saw him.” It seemed Henry wouldn’t be strutting any more of his stuff for the witches.
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CURSES, CATS & CORPSES features a willful witch, a chatty cat and a mystery to solve. The perfect cozy escape on a fall day.
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Just a small-town girl, Maureen Bonatch leads a double life. She lives in a magical world as a novelist, and as a nurse leader in reality. Maureen’s first novella was a paranormal romance published when blogs were a new-fangled thing. She’s since changed her focus to writing paranormal cozy mysteries as M.L. Bonatch and urban fantasy as Maureen Bonatch. While she’s not busy writing or doing nurse-things, she’s a mom to her twin daughters, bicycling in the beautiful woods of PA with her hubby, doing the bidding of a feisty Shih Tzu, and dancing as much as possible. She believes music can be paired with every mood, laughter is contagious, and that caffeine and wine are essential for survival.
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