The Mysterious Bookshop


The Brown Recluse in: ‘How Do You Spell ‘Cat?’

(After The Brown Recluse and the Cat Trap;  and The Brown Recluse, The Detectives, and The Cat Ring.)


Ellen Amora was back in business in her secret identity of the Brown Recluse, having dyed her costume back to brown after a stray red sock in the laundry turned her ensemble pink.  ‘The Pink Recluse’ didn’t have much of a ring to it.

But her mind wasn’t on her costume, such as it was.  The first order of business was to find poor Raffles!  Then bring the miscreants to justice!

But how to proceed?  Aha!  What better way than to lure the fly into the spider’s web?  To the grocery store bulletin board!

Ellen was pretty sure that Batman had gotten his start rescuing lost pets, so she was confident that she would not only be reunited with Raffles but also burnish the image of her super-hero alter ego.

She filled out the card and tacked it to the corkboard bulletin holder thus:



Can you help me find my poor kitty?

Lost in the area of Asta Place on Wednesday last.

Orange in color, good-sized, answers to the name of ‘Nero.’

REWARD!  call: 555-9998.

Ellen thought it quite clever that she’d given Raffles a nom de guerre. She wasn’t worried that Raffles wouldn’t answer to the name ‘Nero.’  He didn’t answer to the name ‘Raffles’ either!

So back home to await the inevitable visit from...who?  Surely the same fellow wouldn’t come back?  And how could they catch the hot rodder who, twice now, had made off with suspects?  Perhaps Ellen & Avery & Costello could pool their money and get a hot rod of their own?  Come to think of it, maybe she should enlist Costello and Avery in this ‘sting.’  Maybe--but wait!  There was someone coming down the street!  And what a roar!  Ellen dashed to the window and looked out.  Pulling up in front of her house was a souped-up dune buggy with huge tires, engine parts sticking up from the hood seemingly at random, and fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror. But instead of the tall, slim, mustachioed man from the previous ‘sting’ attempt, this was a middle-aged woman, wearing a dress that was much too tight, wearing an overdose of perfume that coated Ellen and her environs from a mile away...and Raffles!  She was carrying Raffles!  Have none of these people ever heard of a kitty carrier?  Why did they all show up holding the cats themselves?  But none of this occurred to Ellen until much later, so happy was she at seeing her beloved Raffles!

‘Hi, pal!  Where did you find him?’

‘This handsome fellow was hanging around my back porch.  I don’t know why--we haven’t barbequed in months!’

‘Well, you never know--just glad to see my Nero!'

‘I don’t blame you, I have two myself.’

‘Oh, then you know how it feels to get them back!  Thanks so much!’

‘Don’t mention it.’ The woman turned to go.  ‘Oh, I almost forgot--was there a reward?’

Ellen cried,  'I forgot too!  Just a minute.’

Seizing the opportunity, Ellen ran into the house and got on the phone.  She was able, by some miracle, to get Avery on the line.  Breathlessly, she related the situation and rattled off the license plate number so he could run a make.  It seemed to take an eternity but at last came back, no wants or warrants.  Hmm.  So the hot-rod was clean.  Well, not really, but there wasn’t any police activity in the past of this particular vehicle.  Registered to a Ms. Alanna Nashua at a Terrence Hills address, this was without doubt the hot-rod used in assisting miscreants to escape the law.

But now, how to proceed?  Avery and Costello were on the way, they’d dashed off a quick message to the watch commander and left to try and catch the cat-napper in the act of trying to extort rewards from honest pet-lovers.

Suddenly she had a brainstorm. Ellen, not the Brown Recluse!  She went back to the front door and apologetically said, ‘I’ve only got a hundred. Do you have any change?’

The woman said, ‘I’m afraid I don’t.  Surely your nice kitty is worth a hundred, isn’t he?’

The nerve!  Ellen replied, ‘Of course, he means the world to me.  But I can’t afford a hundred, I think fifty is fair.’

‘We’re back to square one. I haven’t got any change.’

‘Oh.  Well, too bad.  Thanks ever so much for bringing Nero back!  I really appreciate it!’  And Ellen turned to go back into the house.


Ellen faced the woman.  ‘Yes?’

‘I forgot to go to the bank this morning!  I’ve got some change after all!’

As the woman Alanna handed over two twenties and a ten, Ellen thought, Yeah, right.  Just ‘happened’ to remember that you had some cash.  One thing Amigo Amora had taught her before his untimely passing was that the first rule of dealmaking was: Always be ready to walk away!

But now she had what she wanted.  In fact, two things.  The info on the hot rod’s owner and some cash from her.  Now, when Costello and Avery arrived--and here they were!  They’d hardly stepped out of their car when Ellen came roaring up to them and screeched, ‘Are these marked bills from yesterday?’

‘And a cheery good day to you, too, Ms. Amora,’ said Costello. ‘Glad you got your cat back too.’

‘I’m sorry, but when it comes to catching these snatchers, small talk is going to have to wait!’  She put Raffles down, who strolled under a shady tree to watch the action, and thrust the money at Avery.

Avery took the three bills and removed a sheaf of papers from a folder in the car and painstakingly undertook the task of checking the serial numbers of the bills against the list of the numbers used in the reward money from the failed Cinnamon caper.   Costello and Ellen waited impatiently.  Presently Avery put the sheaf of papers back in the folder, stood up, stretched, and said, ‘Yep.  Did you get a make on the car?  Whose is it?’

Ellen peered at her notes.  ‘ A woman from Terrence Hills called Alanna Nashua, driving a fire-engine red Jupiter 8 hot rod.’

Costello sat bolt upright in the front seat of the car.  ‘What name did you say?’

‘Alanna Nashua.’

‘That’s my ex!’

The silence that greeted this statement was profound.  Finally Avery spoke.

‘We’ve got a motive, at least.  She wants to get back at you and stole the other cats as a diversion.’

‘I can’t understand that!'

‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,’ put in Ellen, helpfully.

‘But she wasn’t scorned; that was me!’ Costello said.  ‘She left me for the kid’s nanny.  That was supposed to be my job!’

Another uncomfortable silence.  ‘Um...are you jealous that she got to the nanny before you did?’ asked Ellen.  ‘Is this gonna be a male ego thing?’

‘NO! Wait. Actually...maybe.’

‘Tell you what, guys.’  This from Avery.  ‘Let’s put all that on the back burner for now.  Why don’t we go over to this woman’s house--we got the address from the kickback, right?--and pick her up for questioning?’

‘Good idea.  Ellen, suppose you stay here and--’

‘Nothing doing!  I’ve got just as much right--’

‘You do not have any such right unless you joined the force in the last ten minutes!  Now will you please butt out and let us do our jobs!’

Another uncomfortable silence in a day full of them.  Finally Avery spoke again, softly this time.

‘Please, Ellen.  We’ll keep you posted, promise.’

Ellen pressed her lips into a thin line and folded her arms, not impressed by the promise.

‘Let’s go, Ave. Thanks, Ellen, we’ll be in touch.’

And the detectives hastily left.  As they drove out of sight, Ellen muttered to herself, ‘Fat chance,’ and went into the house.  Moments later, she appeared, her Brown Recluse costume in an attache case, her lunch in a brown paper bag, and her car keys---sitting on the kitchen table.

After retrieving said car keys, she drove to Terrence Hills. She wasn’t going to be left behind on her case if she could help it!

Is Ellen, alias the Brown Recluse, asking for trouble?  Is the cat-snatching ring finally busted?  And what’s the deal with Costello’s ex-wife Alanna?

Tune in next time for the answers to possibly some of these questions, as well as the answers to some that weren’t even asked!


Meanwhile, have a gander at some of these:

One of the creators of the popular television show returns with a novel that explores the dark secrets of the characters and prepares readers for the upcoming episodes.

Family comes first, right?  So if your 'connected' uncle asks you to spirit your teenaged niece away to Taipei to escape the bad influence of her older gentleman friend, you'd do it, right?  And if the niece is spoiled rotten and even more trouble than advertised and puts you and the entire family in even more danger, you just suck it up, right?  Right?


Another topnotch historical from the mother-and-son team. Nurse Bess Crawford is on the front lines at the tail end of WWI.  Although a German defeat is only a matter of time, there is still fierce fighting, and when an officer of mysterious origin turns up wounded at Bess' station, she is curious.  When the officer disappears in Paris, she is even more curious--dangerously so!


Questions/Comments/kitty litter?

Written by Ian Kern — October 17, 2016

Specializing in Mystery Fiction and all its subgenres, including Detective, Crime, Hardboiled, Thrillers, Espionage, and Suspense.

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