The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency: New Excerpt

The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency by Mandy Morton is the 1st book in a new series that turns the traditional British cozy on its head and features feline crime-solvers (available March 28, 2017).

Hettie Bagshot has bitten off more than any cat could chew. As soon as she launches her No. 2 Feline Detective Agency, she’s bucketed into a case: Furcross, home for slightly older cats, has a nasty spate of bodysnatching, and three of the residents have been stolen from their graves. Hettie and her sidekick, Tilly, set out to reveal the terrible truth. Is Nurse Mogadon involved in a deadly game? Has the haberdashery department of Malkin & Sprinkle become a mortuary? And what flavor will Betty Butter’s pie of the week be?

In a haze of catnip and pastry, Hettie steers the Furcross Case to its conclusion, but will she get there before the body count rises—and the pies sell out?

CHAPTER ONE

Hettie Bagshot sat at her desk and stared at the phone, willing it to spring to life. The reporter’s notepad and sharpened pencil sat unused by her right paw, and an un-mined drawer of business cards left no room for biscuits or other enticements. The reality of heading up a detective agency with nothing to detect was becoming a flea collar round her neck and – with the rent due on the Butters’ back room – something had to be done.

Betty and Beryl Butter had run a very successful cake, pastry and pie shop for many years, and a chance discussion at their counter while Hettie waited for her ‘usual’ – a bacon and egg pie and a slice of Beryl’s Madeira cake – had led to the back room and small garden shed being proffered for two pounds a week plus electricity. To Hettie’s relief, the Butters had thrown in staff luncheon vouchers to complete the deal, but speaking of staff, where had Tilly got to? A pint of milk shouldn’t be too hard to trace on a busy high street, and – in spite of her arthritis and vertically challenged tail – Tilly had proved to be an able assistant. And she was cheap. That, of course, was the main thing.

An unfamiliar noise made Hettie’s elegant tabby fur stand on end, and it took her a moment to realise that the phone was actually working. Snatching up the receiver and trying not to panic, she stumbled out the words ‘No. 2 Feline Detective Agency, Hettie Bagshot speaking,’ completely forgetting to run through the list of options that she had trained Tilly to use as the official response to all potential clients. ‘Yes,’ she said brightly, ‘we do look for cats who have gone missing. These cases can be tricky, though, and we rather prefer it if the missing cats are dead. That way they don’t mind as much if it takes us a while to find them. Oh? They are dead? Good. Just one moment and I’ll jot down some details.’ Balancing the telephone receiver in one paw and reaching for her pencil and notepad with the other proved too much for Hettie: she, the pencil, the notepad and eventually the phone all slid across the desk onto the floor with a resounding crash. Remarkably, the caller was still hanging on when Hettie – now in the recovery position – resumed the conversation. ‘I do apologise,’ she said. ‘The builders are with us this morning. We’re refitting our offices to accommodate more staff, due to the recent demand on our services. Now, where were we?’ Lying on the floor under her desk, Hettie realised that she had no idea who was on the end of the line. ‘Shall I take some details?’ she asked. ‘You are?’

‘Marcia Woolcoat, matron of the Furcross home for slightly older cats.’

Hettie scribbled the information down. ‘You say the missing cats were dead before they left you? I see. And can you tell me how they died, as this may have a bearing on the case? They wanted to die? Why would they want to do that?’ At this point, a pint of milk made its triumphant way through the door, hotly pursued by Tilly Jenkins, Hettie’s not-so-able assistant. Seeing that there had been a bit of an incident in her absence, Tilly proceeded to the kettle in the hope that a welcome cup of tea could fix anything. Confused by the extraordinary story unfolding on the other end of the phone, and distracted by the thought of tea and a nice biscuit, Hettie arranged a ‘face-to-face’ for later that afternoon at Furcross. She replaced the receiver in time to rescue a landslide of custard creams from the staff sideboard, which Tilly had balanced too close to the edge. In fact, it was always thus with Tilly, and too close to the edge was fast becoming the mission statement for the No. 2 Feline Detective Agency.

 

Copyright © 2017 Mandy Morton.

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Mandy Morton began her professional life as a musician. More recently, she has worked as a freelance arts journalist for national and local radio. The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series was inspired by her own cats, Hettie and Tilly.

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