Before you get to meet Lars, another Maine Coon Cat appears and will be seen in at least one more book. This is Rose Prairie, named because Lars' granddaughter can't say Robespierre/
A plaintive cry rose from the carrier on the front passenger’s seat. When the cry rose to a shrill pitch, I tapped on the mesh.
“Don’t blame me. My cat made me do it.”
Actually, a small girl’s fascination with Robespierre had led me to select my howling companion. The kitten’s wails grew louder.
“Your brother wouldn’t protest so vocally.”
Robespierre seldom voices an opinion. He has other methods of communication. To gain attention he butts with his head and to show disapproval when he’s been banished, he’s been known to trash my bedroom.
Bringing a kitten from my Hudson River village to
wasn’t among my
greatest ideas. From the moment we’d arrived at the airport in Santa Fe , the kitten
had loudly protested. Stroking and cajoling had had very little effect on the
creature’s unhappiness. She wanted out of the cage, but I wasn’t willing to let
a kitten free to roam around the car. Albuquerque
Lars' son and granddaughter also appear in other books. Here's a bit about them.
Megan, clad in a bright pink puffy jacket, dropped her father’s hand and ran up the walk. “Told you she come.”
Don reached us and hugged me. Warmth infused my thoughts. I believed we’d moved beyond accord.
“Aunt Katherine, you look wonderful.”
The spicy scent of his aftershave was a welcome addition to the sterile air of the deserted house. “You look great and Megan has grown.”
The dark-haired child danced around us. Her blue eyes sparkled with excitement. She pointed to the carrier. “That’s a suitcase for pets. You bring Rose Prairie. Let me see him.”
Momentarily I pushed my concern for Lars aside. No need to upset Megan, especially since she’d lost her mother just eight months ago. “He didn’t come this trip.” I looked at Don. “You may hate me when you see what I’ve done.”
“Never.” He ran his fingers through his hair, a color between blond and brown. “Never hated you. Back then I let my sister run my life.” He closed the door.
I opened the carrier and lifted the kitten. “This is who I brought.”
“Rose Prairie, you shrink.” Megan’s blue eyes widened and she touched the kitten’s brown, white and sable fur. “Him soft.”
“This is Robespierre’s baby sister. Thought you might like to take care of her.”
“Me! Daddy, can I?”
“Yes.” Don met my gaze. “Thanks. This is the most animated she’s been since Ramona...” Sadness clouded his blue eyes.
I grasped his hand. “The kitten will help Megan with her grief. Rose Prairie has had all her shots and you won’t have to worry about offspring.”
“Megan, why don’t you take the kitten to the sunroom and let her run? I need to talk to your dad.” Ever since they’d entered the house, I’d wanted to blurt what I’d found, but my concern for Megan had stopped my tongue.
“What’s wrong?” He trailed me to the living room. “Where’s Dad?”
“Hoped you would know. When I arrived the gate was open. So was the front door.” I halted in the archway to the dining room. “This is what I found. Looks like he left in a rush.”
Don frowned. “That’s not like Dad. Maybe he went to the office.”
“His car’s outside.”
“He could be at Bonnie’s.” He put his hand on my arm. “She’s planning a bash for New Year’s Eve and might have needed his advice.”
Don did. The housekeeper said Bonnie was out.
“What now?” I asked.
“Maybe Carl drove him to the office.”
That explanation didn’t quell the fear that had grown steadily since my arrival. Was Lars’ disappearance linked somehow to the problem he’d spoken of in vague terms last night? He’d mentioned his dead daughter-in-law. Had he learned Ramona’s death hadn’t been an accident but was part of something more sinister?
I wasn’t ready to ask Don those questions. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know anything other than Lars was all right.
Now here's a bit of Lars.
“Lars.” I crossed to the examining table.
“Not the welcome I planned.” He clasped my hands. “How was your trip? Good thing I wasn’t meeting you.”
Tears welled in my eyes. “I’m so glad you’re all right. What happened?”
“Sure wish I knew.”
While he spoke, I assessed his physical appearance. He looked exhausted, but he held himself erect. There was a small bandage on his left arm where they must have drawn blood. His eyes were slightly unfocused and the pupils seemed smaller than normal. His speech had a slurred edge.
A thirtyish dark-haired doctor stepped around the curtain. He flashed a toothy smile. “Mr. Claybourne, I see your friend has arrived, but I really think you should spend the night.”
“No need. Feel fine.” Lars crossed his arms over his chest. “Kate’s a nurse. She’ll know what to do if I have a problem. Your uncle wouldn’t argue with me about leaving.”
I frowned. Did Lars distrust this young man’s medical knowledge or was there another reason for the anger I heard in Lars’ voice?
“Doctor, could I speak to you for a moment? I have a few questions.”
I followed him away from Lars’ cubicle. “What do you think happened?”
He shrugged. “Possibly a TIA. Could have been a small stroke, though nothing showed on the scan. He was found wandering the streets. A cab driver brought him here. By the time I arrived, he was oriented times three. Other than some bruising on his upper arms, he’s fine.”
“One twelve over seventy-four.”
“Hardly in stroke range. Did you order a blood alcohol and a tox screen?”
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