Read Hiss and Tell Online

Authors: Claire Donally

Hiss and Tell

Praise for the
New York Times
bestselling Sunny & Shadow Mysteries

Last Licks

“With a dandy plot and comic relief provided by Shadow,
Last Licks
continues a pleasing series packed with suspense and amiable characters.”


Richmond Times-Dispatch

“I highly recommend this book to cozy mystery buffs [who] enjoy a good story, solid plotting, and a peek into the mind of one smart feline! Four paws up!”

—MyShelf.com

Cat Nap

“Donally, who paints a pleasing portrait of a small town and its inhabitants, plays fair with clues, but the identity of the killer and the motive nonetheless come as a shock. And she earns further stripes for this cat-centric whodunit.”


Richmond Times-Dispatch

“One of my favorite cat cozy series on the shelves today. A special kitty and a fun cast of human characters . . . A must-read for all ailurophiles.”


Melissa’s Mochas, Mysteries & Meows

The Big Kitty

“Small-town Maine hasn’t been this dangerous since Jessica Fletcher started finding dead bodies in Cabot Cove! In this debut, Sunny Coolidge, with the able assistance of a ‘big kitty’ named Shadow, proves she has the skills to make a successful amateur sleuth. Cozy mystery lovers will adore Shadow and pine for many more adventures for him and Sunny.”

—Miranda James,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Cat in the Stacks Mysteries

“Applause for paws—Sunny and Shadow take Best in Show!”

—Susan Wittig Albert,
New York Times
bestselling author of
Bittersweet

“Deftly combines heartwarming humor and nail-biting suspense for a fun read that leaves you looking forward to Sunny and Shadow’s next adventure.”

—Ali Brandon, national bestselling author of
Literally Murder,
a Black Cat Bookshop Mystery

“A purrfect debut. Four paws up and a tip of the tail.”

—Carolyn Hart,
New York Times
bestselling author of
What the Cat Saw

“A charming, witty, exciting new entry in the genre, featuring the best realized and most personable fictional character on four legs. You’ll love Shadow. And Sunny’s fun, too.”

—Parnell Hall, author of
NYPD Puzzle

“A fun amateur-sleuth tale . . . [A] whimsical spin to the lighthearted whodunit.”


The Mystery Gazette

“With a deft hand at plotting, an appealing small-town setting, and a determined protagonist, Donally has created a series opener that aficionados of whodunits and felines will find rubs them exactly the right way.”


Richmond Times-Dispatch

“[Sunny and Shadow are] a cute twosome . . . I am looking forward to the next in the series!”


Book Dilettante

“Interesting and engaging . . . [An] enjoyable novel.”


Genre Go Round Reviews

“A lighthearted romp with plenty of suspects in a quirky little town . . . A great start to a series that shows much promise.”


Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book


The Big Kitty
falls squarely between dark, intense thrillers and comic detective romps . . . A fast, enjoyable read.”


Fresh Fiction

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Claire Donally

THE BIG KITTY

CAT NAP

LAST LICKS

HISS AND TELL

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Group (USA) LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

penguin.com

A Penguin Random House Company

HISS AND TELL

A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with Tekno Books

Copyright © 2015 by Tekno Books.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME
and the PRIME CRIME logo are trademarks of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,

a division of Penguin Group (USA) LLC,

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

eBook ISBN: 978-0-698-16709-4

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / May 2015

Cover illustration by Mary Ann Lasher (B&A Reps).

Cover design by George Long.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

To the married members of the family: Charlie and Betty, Frank and Nancy, Chris and Maureen, and to Mom. If she hadn’t met Dad, where would any of us be today?

And, as ever, sincere thanks to Larry Segriff of Tekno Books and Shannon Jamieson Vazquez of Berkley Prime Crime. Without their input and chastisement, where would any of these books be today?

Contents

Praise for the
New York Times
bestselling Sunny & Shadow Mysteries

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Claire Donally

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

1

He didn’t know
how long he’d stood in the cover of the bushes at the rear of the house. But it was long enough to convince him that the place was empty.

So he strolled across the yard. No hurry, anyone who might look would instantly recognize that he belonged here. Of course, the door barred his way. But he knew that wouldn’t be a problem. He’d been practicing.

A little finagling with the latch, then a quick jump to catch the top of the door, and it swung open without a struggle or a noise. All it took was a little twist, and he was inside.

The kitchen was warm—it had been a sunny day—and there was no sign of anyone in residence. A quick prowl of the ground floor quickly enlarged the no-one-home zone. Even so, he moved silently, listening for any telltale
noises. As he stood at the foot of the hall stairway, he heard the gurgle of running water above. That brought him upstairs at a run; quietly, but quickly.

As he stood in the hall, he also heard a snatch of song under the rush of the water. But he followed the scent of perfume into her room. Just as he expected, she had her fresh clothing laid out on the bed. He reached out and snagged one of her underthings—absurdly tiny, sheer and lacy.

He was just raising it to his nose for a whiff when something happened he couldn’t have planned for: the phone rang. An instant later, she burst into the room, headed for the phone. She had a towel wrapped around her head . . . and that was all.

They stood frozen for a long moment, him with the frilly little nothing still dangling, her with her bare skin pink and still damp from the water.

And then she moved, tearing the towel free and throwing it at him.

He yowled in surprise, his attempt to dodge sending him tumbling to the floor, with barely enough time to get his feet under him. But he could move, too, darting to squeeze under the bed where she couldn’t get at him easily.

His quick action—not to mention his lashing tail—stirred up a cloud of dust under there that made him sneeze. But he hunkered down on all four paws, staying put and warily keeping a lookout for any more possible attacks.

I don’t know why she overreacted like that,
he thought.
Maybe she’s embarrassed about having so little fur.

*

Sunny Coolidge stood
on the deck of the cabin cruiser, enjoying the sailing. Although she hadn’t set off feeling very
laid-back, after dashing out of the shower to find her cat Shadow playing with her underwear. He hadn’t appreciated getting attacked with a damp towel and had taken cover under the bed, leaving her with a heck of a job coaxing him out.

Sunny had felt rushed and frazzled by the time Will had picked her up, and he’d just laughed when she told him what had made her late. “I always had him pegged. You’re sheltering a peeping tomcat.” She’d finally relaxed now, though, and they’d ventured far enough from land to feel a rhythmic swell in the ocean, the remains of a storm considerably farther out to sea. It was enough to impart a rocking feeling to the vessel and made Sunny glad that she was a good sailor.

If only I could be sure that Ben Semple is as good a skipper,
she thought as she watched the man at the wheel. Dressed in a pair of Bermuda shorts and a long-sleeved shirt to avoid sunburn, he looked about as non-nautical as a person could get. A long-billed Kittery Harbor Police baseball cap completed his ensemble, and he wore it down low over his eyes as he scanned the waters around them.

Will Price must have been reading Sunny’s mind, since he came over and draped an arm around her shoulders, grinning. “Don’t worry. We’ve got at least three GPS gizmos on board to get us back safely.”

Sunny had less faith than Will in navigational systems. She couldn’t help thinking of a cartoon her dad had shown her of a car going off a cliff while the GPS voice droned, “Recalculating . . . recalculating.”

“I’m just wondering if heading for the Isles of Shoals might not be a little too ambitious for Ben,” she whispered. “You said that on your other trips, you always stayed in or near the river.”

The river was the Piscataqua, which divided Maine and New Hampshire. On one side was Kittery Harbor, Maine, Sunny’s hometown. On the other was the city of Portsmouth, in New Hampshire, where Will had previously been posted. Nowadays, both he and Ben were constables in the Kittery Harbor police, but Will was aiming for a promotion—he was running for county sheriff. Last night he’d been speech-making at a homeowners’ association meeting in one of the new developments at the edge of town, and Sunny had sat there trying to look loyal and gracious, while Tammy Wynette sang “Stand by Your Man” nonstop in an irreverent corner of her brain.

Today represented a rare break in routine or campaigning, a chance to kick back and enjoy themselves before Labor Day arrived to put an end to summer. “I remember when my dad first took me out to the Isles of Shoals. We went with one of his fishing buddies. I thought it sounded like a fairy-tale place, someplace where we might see mermaids sunning themselves on the shore,” Sunny said.

“Huh,” Will said. “As a kid, I always thought that was the place where all the foot-care stuff came from.”

“Different spelling.” Sunny glanced at Will, not sure whether he was kidding. He had an oddball sense of humor.

“We might see some seals over on Appledore Island.”

“Which was not named after the guy who taught Harry Potter,” Sunny said, trying to get ahead of Will. “I guess I should be glad you didn’t bring up Smuttynose Island.”

Will shrugged. “I was just thinking of things that would be nice to see, like the lighthouse on White Island.”

Sunny sighed. Maybe she was just making things harder than she had to. For a small town like Kittery Harbor where
the pickings were slim, Will was prime boyfriend material—tall, dark (especially with his summer tan), and yes, handsome, with regular features and a pair of gray eyes with odd-colored flecks. He’d rate as decent male companionship even in New York City, where Sunny had gone in search of a journalism career before returning home to help her dad when he got really sick. His health had recovered, but alas, her New York City newspaper career hadn’t, so Sunny had stayed put.

“I haven’t seen any of this,” the fourth passenger on the boat joined the conversation. “So you guys will have to point everything out to me.”

Sunny wasn’t sure which pride and joy this little voyage was supposed to show off—the boat Ben had devoted a big chunk of his salary to getting, or the girlfriend he’d also acquired this summer. Robin Lory was a nice, uncomplicated girl from a little town up in the woods who’d been excited to get a job running a cash register in one of the stores lining the interstate north of Kittery Harbor—outlet-land, as the locals called it. The store was local, however, a bakery with a wonderful line of pastries and, yes, donuts. Sunny had to hide a smile at the spectacle of a cop falling for a baker’s assistant. Still, Robin was cheerful, bubbly, and she’d certainly pepped up the usually stolid Ben. Though Robin had been a little quiet today, first because the flip-flops she’d worn hadn’t protected her toes from the deck hardware, so she’d taken one of the padded seats and stayed there. Then the swells had turned her a little green. But now it seemed she’d recovered. “What I’m really interested in,” she said, “is catching some rays out here.”

With that, she stood up and peeled off the long T-shirt
she’d been wearing, to reveal a tiny bikini and a lot of Robin.

Will took one brief, appreciative look, but shot a glance at Ben when Robin began fiddling with her top.

“Hey, Robin,” Ben said, glancing back at her, “I think we’d better cool it. Will’s running for office, and a lot of voters are on the conservative side.”

“Who’s gonna see?” Robin squinted around at the waters surrounding them.

“All it takes is one boat—and somebody on board with a telescopic lens.” Will spoke with the authority of someone who’d spent time on stakeouts. “And the next thing you know, a blurry photo is showing up on someplace online.” He looked over at Sunny. “And they’re claiming it’s you.”

Sunny glanced down at what she called her seagoing Daisy Duke outfit—cutoffs and a shirt tied above her waist, with deck-shoe-soled tennies and no socks. “Hey, I don’t think an A-line dress and a pillbox hat are going to work out here.”

“Besides,” Robin scoffed, “I’d be surprised if that Nesbit guy even heard of the Internet.”

Will frowned. “Frank Nesbit got to be sheriff by being a damned good politician—and a bare-knuckles one at that.”

Will ought to know, Sunny thought. Nesbit once bounced his father out of the job. Not even Will could tell whether the car crash that killed his dad shortly after losing the election had been an accident or something else. Either way, Frank Nesbit had remained sheriff ever since, and whenever the election cycle came up, billboards sporting portraits of an ever-graying Frank Nesbit appeared beside main roads, touting his record of keeping Elmet County safe.

But not everyone bought that line, arguing that Nesbit massaged crime statistics, artificially downgrading more dangerous offenses in order to make his numbers look good. Sunny’s dad was one of those dissenting voices, and he and several other Kittery Harbor politicos had helped install Will as a town constable, grooming him for a race against Nesbit.

As Sunny had seen in recent weeks, though, this insurgent campaign wasn’t easy. Like a lot of places, Elmet County politics wasn’t exactly a two-party system—more like one-and-a-half parties. Folks had to get pretty fed up with the people in office before they’d vote for the opposition. That meant the party primaries were the only voting that really counted. And for Will, it meant a lot of speeches to homeowners’ associations—and no topless boat rides to the Isles of Shoals.

Robin pouted, but she kept her bikini top on, arranging herself as best she could on the padded seat in the stern of the boat for maximum sun. Sunny fiddled with the ends of the blouse she’d knotted along the line of her ribcage. “You think I’m underdressed for this boat ride? I thought we were taking it easy.”

“I think you look fine.” Will himself was wearing an open short-sleeved button-down shirt over a tight tee that made the most of his rangy build, with a pair of cutoffs and boat shoes. “We just have to be aware that other people will be looking—and yeah, judging.”

The boat trip lived up to every promise, offering up glimpses of seals, lighthouses, scenic rocky shores, and sea breezes. But for Sunny, the sudden intrusion of politics had taken something away from the outing—the fun. She felt distracted all through the journey around the islands.

As Ben steered about, heading for home, a large sailing yacht cruised past in the distance, its distinctive red, white and blue canvas billowing on the breeze.

Robin immediately perked up. “Oh, wow, that’s Caleb Kingsbury’s yacht!”

Ben glanced back from his post at the wheel. “How do you know?”

“From TV, silly. It was on
Eagle Eye
. They did a whole piece on the announcement of his niece Priscilla’s wedding and about the whole family,” Robin said. “The Senator, the governors, and Caleb. The best part was that yacht, I think it’s called the
Merlin
. It’s named after a pirate ship or something one of his ancestors sent out during the War of 1812.”

“Do you mean a privateer?” Sunny asked. “They were sort of early defense contractors. The government gave them the legal go-ahead to raid and seize cargos from enemy merchant ships.”

“Like pirates.” Robin shrugged. “Whatever you want to call it, that
Merlin
came home with a hundred thousand dollars.”

“Before inflation,” Will joked, but his eyes grew serious as they followed the vessel, almost three times the size of Ben’s boat. “Kingsbury’s got a lot of nerve, sailing in these waters after what happened.”

“I know, right?” Robin said. “They mentioned that on the show, too, about the girl who drowned under his boat.”

“That cost him his seat in Congress.” Sunny remembered the scandal, which had happened during the summer of her junior year in college. Caleb Kingsbury had been found on top of his overturned boat—the dead girl had been beneath it. “He was just getting ready to run again,
but after that, none of his father’s political friends wanted anything to do with him.”

“Well, it couldn’t have hurt him much if he’s out there sailing a fifty-foot schooner.” Ben adjusted their course slightly.

“So what’s the scoop on this celebrity wedding?” Sunny asked.

“You don’t know?” Robin sounded incredulous. “Priscilla Kingsbury is marrying Carson de Kruk in a couple of months. It’ll be the biggest thing to happen around here this fall.
Eagle Eye
said the families will be spending some time at the Kingsbury estate, getting to know one another.”

Sunny might not be up on the local wedding gossip, but even she knew the name Carson de Kruk—son of multimillionaire Augustus de Kruk. “If Caleb Kingsbury is sailing in for this get-together, I wonder how the de Kruks will make their entrance,” Sunny said. “They’ve got more money than God.”

“Maybe they’ll pile it all up and come parasailing down from the summit,” Will suggested.

“One thing’s for sure,” Ben said, going from sea captain to traffic cop. “Driving anywhere near Wilawiport is going to be a real mess—especially round the Kingsbury compound. They may not be Kennedys or Bushes, but they’re sure to have TV crews and lots of gawkers around. Now I know why I’m being posted up there. I was supposed to keep quiet about it. But if it’s on TV . . .” He shrugged.

They reached the dock where Ben was renting space without spotting any other mysterious schooners, and the two couples parted ways. Will gave Sunny a lift home.

“Do you want to come in?” she asked as they turned onto Wild Goose Drive.

When she saw Will hesitate, Sunny said, “I promise there are no paparazzi hanging around.”

“It’s not that—or you.” Will fumbled for words. “It’s your dad. Whenever he gets hold of me now, he’s full of advice.”

“Well, he kind of considers himself your unofficial campaign manager.” Sunny pointed out.

Other books

Zara's Curse (Empire of Fangs) by Domonkos, Andrew
Breathing His Air by Debra Kayn
Past Lives by Ken McClure
Silent Hunt by John Lescroart
Diva by Alex Flinn
Things I Want to Say by Cyndi Myers
Journey by James A. Michener
Just One Taste by Maggie Robinson