The Mysterious Bookshop

The Brown Recluse In: Cat’s Claws Are Sharp

(After How Do You Spell 'Cat,' The Brown Recluse and the Cat Trap, and The Brown Recluse and the Cat Ring)


‘Why did you buy her a hot rod?  Did she have her mid-life crisis before you did?’

‘She had it before I met her.  Anyway nobody had their mid-life crisis before me!’ said Costello with a laugh.

But the laugh died a-borning in his throat as the full, weighty implications of the situation returned to his mind.  Somehow his ex-wife Alanna was involved, likely the Paltry Gang was too. The squad got a huge kick out of the fact that the gang apparently had named itself after the Brown Recluse’s insult.  The wild card in the equation was the nanny with whom Alanna had run off. Was Luz Marin putting ideas in Alanna’s head?  Was she the brains behind the cat-snatching affair?  Surely she could come up with a better scheme to make money!  

Just then the squad phone rang.  Some of the marked money from the extortion attempt on Costello's cat Cinnamon, partly thwarted by ex-cop Burke, had been found at a newsstand.  The proprietor had checked a bill against the hot sheet sent out by the department to merchants. It came up a match and luckily an officer happened by who detained a tall, slim, mustachioed man, who was screaming to high heaven about his rights and he didn’t know anything about any marked bills and so on.

Ellen Amora had made up her mind.  There wasn’t anything else to do.  Raffles needed a companion.  Someone to keep him company while she was running the detective agency that she’d inherited from her late husband, Albert ‘Amigo’ Amora.  It was his brutal slaying at the hands of River City’s former gang boss that gave rise to Ellen’s taking over the agency and indirectly led to the creation of the Brown Recluse.  

Anyway she decided to go to the local shelter and try to find a docile cat who would be a pal to Raffles without encroaching on his space.  Fat chance!  But at least she would be doing a good deed rescuing a cat from the shelter.  It certainly was better than inheriting a cat from a dead gangster!  Or a dead anyone.  When she arrived at the shelter she strolled the aisles of cages with kitties and narrowed her selection down to two or three of the best looking felines.  ‘Hi,’ she heard behind her.  Startled, she whirled to face a pleasant-looking woman in very big spectacles who stepped back at the expression on Ellen’s face.  ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to--’

‘Forget it.  What can you tell me about this guy?’

‘Oh, that’s Xavier.  He’s one of our most popular residents.’

Ellen couldn’t help but chuckle.  ‘Residents?’

‘Yes, that’s what we call them.  Of course it’s only temporary, and I’m afraid Xavier’s time is almost up.’

‘What do you mean, almost up?’

‘We can only keep them for two months--we simply don’t have the space to house all the strays in this town.  But you were asking about Xavier.  Well, he’s had all his shots, is in good health, about two years old and gets along very well with children and other pets.  Just one thing--’

‘Never mind.  I’ll take him!’

‘Great, will you follow me, please?’

And the two women trekked back to the front of the office, where Ellen paid the fee and received a voucher for a vet visit, a carrier thank goodness, and Xavier.

As the bespectacled shelterista was ringing up the transaction, she conversationally said, ‘Are you getting ‘Xave’ as a companion for another cat?’

Ellen was surprised. ‘Yes, how did you know?’

‘I can always tell.  So you’ll have the two?’

‘Yes, that’s right.’

‘That’s better than the couple of dozen in our own crazy cat people’s house!’ the woman exclaimed.

Now THAT piqued Ellen’s interest!  ‘Where is that?’

‘Over here on Dubose street, off of Maple.  You can’t miss the smell, if nothing else!’

Carrier full of kitty in hand, Ellen figured that a reconnaissance mission was in order.  The cat-snatchers must have a place to stash their bounty and Ellen was ready to bet the farm that the crazy cat house was the place.

She drove to the area and parked discreetly a couple of blocks away.  Then she donned her costume and stood revealed as the Brown Recluse!  

Sneaking through the shrubbery at the rear of the house the Brown Recluse was seized with a feeling of deja vu when she peered through the rear window.  And talk about deja vu!  There was the same mustachioed man from the hostage raid!   It was a warm day and the window was open, so the Brown Recluse settled in to listen.

‘Let’s go, Taper.’

And then everyone in the room filed out.  Was that all she was going to hear?  In the comics, eavesdropping was always much more productive.  But where had she heard that name before?  Such an unusual name, too!

The Brown Recluse crept back around to the front of the house, no small task since it was broad daylight, and observed the men exiting the house through the front door. Climbing into a waiting Plymouth Valiant, one was heard to say, ‘And another thing--I don’t want any more interference from those broads!’  And then they drove off.

‘Those broads’ must refer to Luz Marin and the former Mrs. Costello.  Now what the heck was going on?  Well, nothing more to see here, might as well head home.  Changing back to her Ellen Amora identity, she was relieved to see Xavier in his carrier none the worse for wear since it wasn’t that hot and she’d only been gone a few minutes. Still, she must be careful of leaving her pal--oops, pals--unattended, especially in the car.  She started the motor and cruised back to her house and spent some quality time introducing Xavier to Raffles and vice versa while she pondered her next move.


It was a summit meeting.  Costello, Avery, and Ellen Amora were at the latter’s house drinking tea and eating truffles.  By some miracle, Xavier and Raffles got along pretty well and were currently engaged in an operation code-named ‘Destroy the Catnip Thing.’  

The man who was picked up with the counterfeit bills at the newsstand claimed to have gotten them in change at a bar down the street.  However, the bartender claimed not to have seen the man that day, or indeed ever.  Confronted with this, he admitted he’d been given the phony money by Taper Marin, husband to Luz, who was now keeping company with Alanna Nashua, ex-wife to Costello. It was all very confusing.

‘Question is, where is Marin now?’ asked Avery.

‘If we watch the house over by the shelter, he’s bound to show up,’ said Ellen.

‘Sure you weren’t burned?’

‘No way!  What kind of an amateur do you think I am?’

‘I don’t know.  What kind are you?’

Ellen glared while Costello guffawed. ‘After all, you took over Amigo’s agency because he got killed.  You wouldn’t be doing it otherwise!’

Ellen said, ‘Nuts!  I’m as good an investigator as there is in this city.’

‘That’s debatable, but the point is, how can we stop this cat-snatching?’

And no one had an answer.


Raffles padded down the hallway towards the loud voices and funny smells.  Maybe someone would drop something tasty!  Sneakily, he’d waited until Xavier was napping before he set out, not wanting to share any bounty. He wound his way around the room in a roundabout fashion, after carefully sniffing the area to locate anything possibly dangerous or delicious.  Finding nothing, he continued on his rounds, sitting near each of the humans in turn and looking at them with eyes as big as he could muster, which never failed to generate a snack.  Slim pickings today!  Twitching his tail in annoyance, he went back over to the fat one.  There was something familiar about his smell--what was it?

Raffles thought and thought.  He couldn’t for the nine lives of him recall where he’d smelled this person before. Then he decided to try the paw nudge to get a morsel.  He tapped Costello’s leg with his left front paw, claws retracted, to remind the man that there was a hungry kitty down here!  When that didn’t work, he sank his teeth into Costello’s ankle.  Costello howled admirably and he jumped up and made ready to kick Raffles into next week!  He shouted, ‘I shoulda tossed you outta the window when I had the chance!’  Realizing what he’d said, he clamped his mouth shut, but it was too late.  The other two were gaping at him.  Finally Avery said, ‘Wanna explain that?’

Now what?  Is Raffles really on to something here?  Is Detective Costello involved in this sordid plot?  And when will Cinnamon and Xavier get some treats?  Tune in next time for more of….The Brown Recluse!


While we’re waiting for the next installment, have a look at some of these titles involving kidnapping:

A family's worst nightmare: Their fifteen-year-old daughter hasn't come home!  A search leads nowhere.  As time passes, kidnapping doesn't seem to be plausible.  Until it does.


Riley wants to snatch Miss Blandish's pearl necklace, but ends up snatching Miss Blandish.  The inept kidnappers lose their victim to another gang, even as ruthless detective Fenner barges in.  A topnotch classic, not to be missed!  A two-in-one tale, with Twelve Chinamen and A Woman.

Hey, kidnappings happen, right?  What about the abduction of a member of MI5?  That's another kettle of fish, isn't it?  The operatives of Slough House are all agents that have screwed up somehow, but they will stop at nothing to rescue their colleague.


Questions/Comments/A furry tail?


Written by Ian Kern — October 20, 2016