“Would you pry this cat off the steering wheel?” Eric was saying testily. He and Bradley were driving to Chichiteaux in Eric’s Honda. With them were Bradley’s cats, a calico named Purrball and a white kitten called Muffin. Both cats were wandering loose in the car because Smith thought caging animals was a crime.
“God, Eric, you must never have owned pets before.” Bradley tugged Purrball off and lowered her into the backseat, which he had turned into a playpen for the cats. A tangle of extension cords plugged a pair of battery-heated cat beds into the cigarette lighter, allowing the cats to lounge like pashas. Of course, Bradley had brought along their scratching posts, chase balls, plush toys, feather twitches, and wind-up mice. Smith had looped a pair of swat toys around the head rests, causing Maxwell to fret about his upholstery. And Bradley had not forgotten the more practical items like combs and brushes. Two suitcases alone had been necessary for the cat’s luggage.
Glancing over his shoulder, Eric said with disapproval, “You know, those cats have more toys than I ever did in all the time I was growing up.”
“Want a catnip-stuffed mouse to make you feel better?”
“No, thank you.”
“I was getting rid of one anyway. The seams are coming loose.”
“And a dozen more shall take its place,” Eric proclaimed in Biblical tones. “God only knows what your relatives will say when you show up with those cats.”
“Why are you so worried about my family?”
Eric could not resist grinning. “I’m afraid they’ll be like you.”
“Pah. If they’re like me, they’ll be wonderful people.”
“Besides, I think they might be rich.”
“Hey, I grew up poor but respectable. I’m still poor but respectable. And I’m poor by choice. You don’t become wealthy on a reporter’s salary for a small paper. But rich people don’t understand guys like me. They’ll ask why I don’t have a better paying job, and I’ll have to hurt their doltish feelings when I tell them I don’t give a damn.”
“Oh for God’s sake, rich people are just like you and me. They just have--weirdly dead relatives,” Bradley said with rising surprise.
“What are you looking at?”
Smith was holding a newspaper. “I borrowed this from the library. It’s the latest issue of the Chichiteaux Weekly and it has James Boyle’s obituary in it.”
“You’ll have to return that. Libraries don’t take to thieves,” Eric chided.
“All right. But listen to this. ‘Mr. James Elmont Boyle, 71, died in Chichiteaux on August 8th, while out for a drive in his beloved Mercedes-Knight town car. He was killed by a CD. Mr. Boyle was the son of Hiram Boyle, a local manufacturer, and Christina Howland. He had spent all his life in this community and was well-known as a fancier of antique cars. He was also an honorary colonel in the 1st Chichiteaux Regimental Militia. Mr. Boyle was preceded in death by his wife, Anna Newcombe Boyle. Survivors include his sister, Katherine Boyle, his son, Armagnac Boyle, and his two daughters, Jacquelyn Salisbury of New York City and Rose Cummings of Albany. He is also survived by three grandchildren. The burial was held Friday at the Douthit Cemetery. The family requests that all memorials be sent to the Chichiteaux Garden Club.’ Killed by a CD? What’d he do, swallow it?”