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Old 03-21-2016, 12:14 AM   #281
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TigTig nodded, and the two cats followed Justin to the kitchen. Isis joined them from the living room, and Justin fixed three little plates for the cats. He put them on the table, and got out a couple of hot dogs.

“Not too hungry tonight?” Loki asked him.

Justin shook his head. “Not really. I’m dragging Joyce off tomorrow afternoon to look at cars, and with any luck I’ll get a dinner invitation out of her. Want to go with me? Pook and Saav are going. Isis has a guest to help out with tomorrow night at Sunshine. Joyce made a batch of that Glop stuff you like.”

“Sure,” Loki replied.

Tiggy nodded. “Cool.”

“That stuff is nasty. I can’t believe you eat that.”

Loki eyed the hotdogs frying on the stove. “At least we know what’s in it,” he said pointedly.

“Unlike your assorted collection of unknown pig parts over there,” added TigTig.

Justin unrolled the newspaper. “I’ll stick with the pig parts. What did you guys do today?”

“The usual,” said TigTig.

“I found some classes I want to take,” Loki told him.

“Good. What are they?”

“I like Pook’s web design classes, and I think I’d like to start with American literature too,” replied the black cat.

“That’s gonna get expensive,” TigTig warned Justin.

The human shrugged. “Well, that’s why I have two jobs. We’ll see what it takes to enroll you before I hit the hay tonight.”

“Okay, thanks,” smiled Loki.

Justin got up and turned the hot dogs, and took a handful of potato chips out of the canister, putting those on a plate. “If I had time, I’d take some classes.”

“What would you want to learn?” asked Loki.

“A little more about computers, and maybe marketing or something. I don’t know, anything that would be useful to the store,” he replied, preparing two hotdog buns.

“When can you quit your security management job?” Loki wondered.

“Soon, I think. As soon as the store starts making a little more profit. It’s getting there. Maybe in about a year, if it keeps up the way it’s going.”

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Old 03-21-2016, 12:17 AM   #282
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“We’d like to see a little more of you,” Loki said.

“I’d like to see you guys more too.” Justin brought his plate to the table and sat down.

“But you’re having a good time at Carrie’s with the other cats, aren’t you?”

“Yes, we are. Tiggy and Belle are quite a pair together,” Loki grinned.

“She loves to learn,” said TigTig. “You and Zeus are a mess.”

Loki laughed. “We have a lot of fun!”

“They’re all neat,” added TigTig.

“Yeah, they are,” Justin agreed.

“I like going over there. I’m glad Suzanna’s better,” Loki remarked.

“Speaking of, that Detective Freeman visited Suzanne. Did you hear about that?” Justin told them about Freeman’s visit and the Searcys.

“Oh no. That was weird,” sighed TigTig.

“I wonder where did they go? Where are they?” said Loki, frowning.

“I have no idea. I think everyone’s wondering what happened,” said Justin.

“I bet,” Loki nodded.

“The cops will figure it out,” said TigTig nonchalantly.

The cats finished their seafood scraps while Justin ate his dinner and read the paper, sharing articles of interest with them. After dinner, he went upstairs to see about online classes for Loki. The cat showed him what he wanted as TigTig looked on, and Justin enrolled him.

“There you go,” said Justin, turning the laptop over to Loki. The books and materials would be there in a week or so, and Loki would be ready to go then.

“Thanks,” purred Loki.

“Have fun with those,” smiled Justin. “I hear my bed calling me.”

Loki followed him, and as usual, snuggled up and purred Justin to sleep.

Justin, TigTig and Loki arrived at the cottage shortly after noon to go car shopping with Joyce, Pook and Saav, Joyce following Justin in her Monte Carlo. She and the cats had discussed it, and they had decided to trade the old car rather than have two; at least until Joyce’s column was picked up by a few more newspapers. They stopped at the first dealership they came to, and Joyce and Justin got out and looked around.

“Yaaaggghh,” Joyce frowned. “Look at these prices.”

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Old 03-21-2016, 12:20 AM   #283
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“You don’t want anything this big, do you?” he asked, pointing to a yellow Hummer.

“Yow! Noooo!”

“Okay, I didn’t think so. Joyce, these things are all huge and really expensive. This is a waste of time. I know where you need to go,” he said.


“Walker Rides. They specialize in four-wheel-drives, and everything comes with a warranty. They have a real good service department, too.”

“Let’s go. I don’t want to take forever doing this, it’s cold as hell out here,” said Joyce.

“What was that big yellow thing?” Saav asked when they returned to Joyce’s car.

“Looked like a tank,” muttered Pook.

“Expensive,” Joyce replied. “Justin’s taking us someplace a little more reasonable.”

They arrived at the car lot, and they looked around before getting out.”

“Dang, they have everything,” marveled Pook.

“They do,” nodded Joyce. “Let’s go take a look.”

Justin and Joyce piled out, and started looking at vehicles. A salesman came out and offered to help them.

“I’m looking for a basic all-wheel-drive to get around in snow and ice,” Joyce answered his question. “Preferably a Subaru or Honda.”

“How basic?” the salesman asked.

“No designer stuff,” she replied. “Reliable and good gas mileage.”

He showed them some SUVs, but most of them had large engines and options she wasn’t willing to pay for. They looked around some more, and Joyce spied a plain silver Subaru Forester stuck in the corner of the lot, away from the others.

“What’s up with that one?” she asked, pointing.

“We just got that in on a trade. It hasn’t been detailed yet.”

“Tell me about it,” she said, interested.

He went over its features. It was less than two years old, and had only 19,000 miles on it.

“Hmm. Sounds like what I’m looking for,” Joyce said. She looked at it inside and outside, and Justin checked out the tires.

“Great tires,” observed Justin. “They look new.”
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Old 03-21-2016, 12:22 AM   #284
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“Yeah, they are. The previous owner put less that a thousand miles on them. They’re under warranty.”

Joyce looked at the window sticker. “Decent price.”

“Yes, very low,” Dan nodded.

Joyce smiled. “The car seems to be in great shape.”

“It is, but as I said, we haven’t detailed it yet.”

“Can I test-drive it?” she asked him.

“Sure you can. I’ll get the keys for you,” offered Dan.

“Thanks,” replied Joyce. Justin got in on the passenger side.

“Not bad,” he mused. “It looks like it’s hardly been driven.”

Dan returned with the keys. “Here you go. Have fun. You’ve got about a quarter tank of gas.”

“We’ll be back,” smiled Joyce.

The Forester started right up, and Joyce backed it out and drove out onto the street as the cats watched.

“Those look funny,” said Loki. “Like a box on wheels.”

“Yeah, they do. That’s a Subaru, isn’t it?” asked Saav.

“Yes, it is,” replied Tiggy. “Justin looked at those when he found this one.”

In the Forester, Joyce was having fun. “Hey, this is great!”

“It is,” agreed Justin. “Subarus are really great cars.”

“I’ve heard that. Okay, I like this. Let’s go see what kind of deal we can get for it.”

They returned to the car lot, where Dan was peering into Justin’s Ford at the cats. He looked up as they pulled in.

Joyce parked next to the Ford. “How much with my trade?” she asked.

Dan smiled. “You want it?”

“Yes. How much?”

“I’ll make a deal with you. Take that thing off my hands today and I’ll sell it for...”
He pulled out a pocket calculator, punched in a few numbers, and held it up to her.

“That. Ten percent over what I have in it, and this is probably the most it would fetch at auction.”

Joyce’s eyes bugged. “I wouldn’t have to finance that.” She then offered her car and a lower offer in cash.
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Old 03-21-2016, 12:27 AM   #285
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“Okay, we have a deal. Give me about two hours to have it serviced and detailed, and it’s yours.”

Joyce and Justin got out, and Dan looked at Justin’s Ford.

“Don’t those cats get cold?” he asked.

Justin smiled. “Not if I keep the engine running.”

Joyce’s cell rang. “Excuse me a minute. But we’ll be back in two hours.”

It was Carrie. “Paul called. He wants to meet up with everyone...about the cats. He said he talked to you about it.”

“He did. When does he want everyone together?”

“Tonight at my place, at seven-thirty. Is that okay with you?”

“Yep. We’re at the dealership, so I’ll ask Justin if he can make it, and I’ll call you back.”

“Great. Thanks.”

Dan said goodbye to Justin, and headed back into the showroom.

“What are you guys doing tonight?” Joyce asked Justin.

“Nothing. Why?”

“Paul wanted a meeting with all of us tonight at seven-thirty, about the cats.”

“What about the cats?” asked Justin.

“It’s about if something happens to one of us, we need to make arrangements for the cats. Who will go to whom, just in case, that kind of thing,” Joyce explained. “Paul came over last night and he and Zeus sat down with us and discussed it. We thought it might be best to let the cats decide where they want to go. Can you come, too?”

“I can’t not come to this,” he said firmly. “That has been on my mind for three years.”

“You mean if you die before we do, where will we go?” Loki asked. Justin was still holding Loki and TigTig.

“Yes,” Justin answered.

“Oh, crap, that’s not going to happen!” Loki exclaimed.

“It could, Loke. We need to think of these things to protect you,” Justin told him kindly.

“I don’t like thinking about it,” scowled TigTig.

“Hopefully it won’t happen, but remember Suzanna’s fall. That could have been a lot worse,” Saav put in unhappily. She and Pook were listening from the passenger side.
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Old 03-21-2016, 12:30 AM   #286
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The cats were quiet, thinking about that. Justin clutched his cats tighter to his chest.

Finally Pook spoke up.

“At least we cats can make our own choices. Others can’t and end up in shelters,” she said quietly. “Remember Sunshine.”

Sunshine’s first owner had had to enter a nursing home following a stroke and was unable to care for him, so he was passed on to the owner’s daughter, who was kind and willing to take him in. But the daughter’s dog didn’t like cats at all, and sadly, she had to put him up for adoption at the local no-kill shelter. He was, fortunately, adopted by Suzanna the next day to become the inn kitty.

“I don’t want to spend my life in a cage,” Saav added. “Do you?”

TigTig shook her head. “No.”

Loki sighed. “I see your point.”

“So even though it’s hard, it’s necessary to talk about these things. One night of talk, it will be out of the way, and unless something happens, we don’t need to bring it up ever again,” Justin said. “Fair enough?”

“Okay,” agreed TigTig.

“Yeah, that’s fair,” Loki frowned.

“What time are we supposed to be there?” asked Pook.

“Seven-thirty. In about four hours. We have time for lunch at Lowery’s Porch if you guys want to hang out with the other cats some more,” suggested Joyce.

“Sounds like a winner,” said Justin. “My treat. You’ve cooked me a lot of dinners. Then we come get the car.”

“Yeah, time to pay up, you freeloader,” Joyce smiled.

A solemn little group gathered in Carrie’s spacious, airy living room, the cats nervous, the humans businesslike.

“We just have to face some things,” began Paul. “No one knows what will ever happen, and these are very special beings that cannot, under any circumstances, be taken in by just anybody.

“I have a heart condition, and although I had it corrected and have been healthy for four years, life carries no guarantees. But one thing we can all guarantee, to the best of our abilities, is the cats’ safety and freedom to be sentient. Joyce and I thought it best to let the cats decide where they want to go…just in case the inevitable occurs a bit sooner than expected.”

“I agree with you,” Justin nodded. “Let the cats choose their home.”
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Old 03-21-2016, 12:32 AM   #287
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Suzanna and Carrie looked at each other. Slowly, they too nodded.

“Then we’re in agreement,” said Paul. “I’ll start with Zeus. Buddy, if something happens to me, where do you want to go?”

Zeus looked from one human to another, and from cat to cat. “That’s a tough call. But I think…” The Manx’s gaze rested on Meows. “I think I could be happy with Suzanna and Meows. Meows doesn’t have another sentient cat living with him.”

Suzanna smiled and Meows nodded. “I’d like for him to be with us,” said Meows.

“What about you, Meows?” asked Suzanna.

“I’ll stick with Zeus, but Sunshine goes with me,” said Meows.

“No problem there,” agreed Zeus. Paul smiled and winked at Meows.

Carrie looked at Bart and Belle in her lap. “And you two?”

Bart and Belle looked at each other. Finally Bart said, “We want to be with our first friends, Pook and Saav.”

Belle nodded. “Yes.”

Joyce reached out to little Belle and scratched her ears. “We can do that.”

She looked at her own cats, Pook and Saav. “Girls?”

“Bart and Belle,” said Pook. “I think we kinda feel the same way they do.”

Saav looked down, and Carrie petted her.

“Don’t worry, Saavy, it probably won’t happen,” Carrie assured the frail little black cat.

“I hope not,” sighed Saav. “But what about Ruffie?”

Suzanna spoke up. “I’ll take Ruffie. You and Pook can visit her anytime you like. I can fence in the back yard for her, Carrie doesn’t have a yard, and Paul’s place isn’t close enough to walk to safely.”

Joyce smiled. “Thank you, Suzanna. That would be perfect for her.”

Pook and Saav agreed. “We’ll only be a couple blocks away, anyway,” Pook said. Saav nodded.

“She does need a yard,” Meows concurred. “Good thinking, Suzanna. Sunshine and I like Ruffie.”

“So do I,” said Zeus.

Justin looked at Loki and TigTig. “Well? You’re next.”

After a long, thoughtful pause and a quick whispered exchange, TigTig said, “Could we take turns with everyone and let Isis stay with Sunshine and Meows so
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Old 03-21-2016, 12:35 AM   #288
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she can keep doing her thing at the inn? We’ll see her a lot anyway if we can do that. We just want to be with everyone.”

“It’s too hard to decide,” added Loki. “Is that all right?”

“That’s a good idea,” said Carrie.

“Joint custody of the computer guy’s cats,” laughed Suzanna. “I can just see that in family court.”

That broke the somber mood, and everyone agreed to TigTig’s proposal.

“Sounds like a new game,” said Zeus. “’Pass the cats.’”

They chuckled, and relaxed. The talk was over, and everyone felt a little better.

“But what if there are more of us and we find them?” asked Belle.

The humans groaned.

“There could be lots and lots more of us,” Belle insisted.

“Well, there could be, but let’s not worry about that yet,” smiled Carrie.

“I’d have to get a bigger house,” said Joyce. “We’re running into each other as it is.”

“I like us just the way we are right now,” Loki put in.

“Me, too,” said Bart.

They chatted for a few minutes, and Carrie turned on the TV to the weather station.

Another snowstorm was on the way. Both cats and humans alike groaned.

“Crap,” muttered Justin. “Here we go again.”

“What are you complaining about?” laughed Paul. “Last time it snowed, you made out like a bandit, selling three laptops and all that.”

“Oh, that’s right, I did,” Justin grinned. “Maybe snow is good for business.”

Joyce snickered. “Maybe, but it wreaks havoc with the credit card.”

Suzanna looked at Joyce. “You got that Subaru just in time.”

Joyce frowned at the TV screen. “Sure does look like it, doesn’t it?”

“I’d say it does,” said Carrie, petting Saav. “But you’ll be able to get out this time and bring these guys over, snow or no snow.”

Pook and Saav traded a happy glance at Belle, who liked to have all her friends over as much as possible and became a bit unhappy if Pook, Saav or Zeus got snowed in. She purred and smiled back.

“I like the new car,” said Paul.
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Old 03-21-2016, 12:38 AM   #289
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“Me too,” nodded Carrie. “Dessert, anyone? Cheesecake and hot chocolate for us, and I made a crabmeat quiche for the cats.”

“Oh, good!” exclaimed Pook. “I love that stuff, Carrie.”

“Can I have a little cheesecake too?” asked Belle. “Maybe with the strawberry jam topping?”

Bart rolled his eyes. “Gaaaahhhh, Belle! You’re supposed to be a carnivore!”

Belle flattened her ears and let out a sound through her bared teeth that sounded like a cross between a hiss and a sneeze. Bart sighed.

“What the hell was that?” asked Justin.

“A raspberry, Belle-style,” smiled Suzanna.

“Hey, that was kinda cool,” Loki said admiringly. “I’ll have to remember that one.”

“Thanks a lot, Belle,” groaned Justin.

Belle raspberried Justin, and danced out of the way as Justin playfully reached over to grab her tail. He snatched her up anyway, turned her over, and tickled her belly, sending her into gales of giggles, then laughed and immediately let her go, petting her.

“Such a little spitfire,” he smiled.

Belle preened, and then jumped off the couch to follow Carrie and Suzanna into the kitchen. Pook went along too.

“Box time,” announced Pook.

“Thanks for sharing that,” Joyce said sourly.

Pook rolled her eyes and sauntered off to the utility room.

Paul looked at Justin. “I was thinking about something the other day. Could you use a third partner for your computer shop? I was talking to some former colleagues in the city and they’re complaining about the prices there being so high. I told them about your place and they said they would rather make the trip out here than deal with those price-gougers they’re having to use there. I was thinking, if you and your partner agree, I could invest in you and help you set up a website where people can order things online and also see your stock. It would be really convenient for folks in the city. What do you think?”

Justin thought about it. “Hmm. That would certainly build some serious business, Paul. I’d have to go over the numbers with you and see –“

“You’ve been in business for almost five years. The second year your profits doubled and it has steadily gone up since, and last year you went up another thirty-
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Old 03-21-2016, 12:42 AM   #290
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five percent. With business from the city, no telling where it would go, and I’d like to get in on the ground floor,” Paul interrupted him.

“Ahh, you’ve done your homework,” smiled the younger man. “Sure. I’ll get with my partner and run it past him, and I’m sure he’ll go for it. Then we’ll sit down and figure out what to do.”

“Advertise,” said Meows, coming over to Justin’s chair. “Advertise in the city. I can help you, I do all the ads for Sunshine, and recently for Carrie’s shop and Lowery’s Porch. I’m pretty good at it.”

“Built-in ad agency,” smiled Paul. “Actually, he is. I’ve seen his work, especially the new ones for Lowery’s Porch with the new logo. Ralph likes it so much he’s ordering a new sign with that design on it.”

“I like that idea too. Meows, you’re on. I’ll give you a cut from anything I sell that came from your work. That ought to buy you a little caviar now and then, what do you think?” asked Justin.

“I don’t want anything,” said Meows. “I’d just like to help. I like seeing you people succeed and do well.”

Justin smiled fondly at the intelligent, business-savvy cat. “Thanks, Meows. But I will pay you or Suzanna, take your pick.”

“Suzanna pays the bills and buys me everything, so if you want to do that, give it to her,” Meows replied.

“You are so cool,” Loki told him, smiling at Meows’s generosity.

Meows smiled. “Funny. I think the same about you, Loki.”

“Give me a call when you’re ready to sit down and talk about this,” said Paul. “I’ve been looking for an investment I can actually put my hands on, and I think Computer Shack fits the bill.”

Carrie and Suzanna returned with trays of cheesecake and quiche, hot chocolate and warm milk.

“We heard that,” said Suzanna, putting the tray of quiche and milk down on the floor for the cats. Carrie set hers on the coffeetable. “Great idea, Paul.”

“Sounds like a good idea to me too,” Carrie added.

“I like it. My partner will too,” Justin nodded at her.

“I hope so,” said Paul, helping himself to the cheesecake.

“Got a good lawyer?” asked Suzanna.

Justin and Paul looked at each other.

“I do, in the city,” replied Paul. “Not here, though. Who would you recommend?”

“Me,” said Suzanna. “I’m still an attorney. Let me help with the legal end of this, if you two need it.”

Paul glanced at Justin, who smiled.

“That works for me,” Justin said. “You’re on.”

“Good. One headache out of the way,” Suzanna nodded.

“Thanks, Suzanna,” said Paul. “Good to have someone we can really trust.”

“No kidding,” Justin concurred. “I appreciate that, Suzanna.”

Suzanna laughed. “Just give me a little discount now and then, okay?”

Paul rolled his eyes and Justin smirked.

“Like she has to ask,” he said to Paul.

Paul chuckled. “Women.”

“Yeah,” smiled Justin.

Suzanna shook her head at them.

Joyce rolled her eyes. “Men.”

“Hey, Joyce,” TigTig spoke up from the floor. “Why don’t you give Justin your recipe for Glop?”

“Sure, I can do that,” Joyce smiled.

“Oh, hell no!” exclaimed Justin. “I’m not making that! That stuff is nasty!”

“No it’s not,” Loki countered. “It’s fabulous.”

“You don’t have to eat it,” added TigTig.

“I’m not making that disgusting, stinky stuff in my kitchen!” Justin told them. “No offense, Joyce, but I don’t even eat seafood at all. I’m even allergic to it. Every time we go to Ralph’s I get the chicken parmesan or a steak.”

“I noticed that,” said Joyce, smiling. “I’m not offended. I’ll make it and make an extra batch for your cats. That way you just have to put it in a dish for them.”

“Thank you,” Justin replied, glaring at his cats. “That’s bad enough.”

Zeus shook his head. “Poor man doesn’t know what’s good for him,” he sighed.

The humans shared a smile at that.

“I think Justin’s right, and I love seafood,” put in Carrie. “But that Glop stuff really is a little gross.”

“I could add some roadkill to it if you cats would like,” offered Joyce with a wink at the felines on the floor. “Possum seems to be in season most of the year.”

Suzanna almost gagged. “Oh nooo!”

“Roadkill-flavored Glop. Joyce, we love you, but if you do that…” Paul balled up a fist at her with a grin. “To the moon!”

“Just trying to help,” snickered Joyce. The cats laughed at the humans, and dove into their dessert while the humans watched the storm’s progress on the television.

It was coming pretty fast, and would be there by the time the sun rose the next morning.

Suzanna sighed. “Well, there’s one good thing about the snow.”

“What’s that?” asked Paul.

“Maybe it’ll cover up some of the mess across the street from Sunshine,” she replied.

“Yeah, that’s a real eyesore from the front porch of the B&B,” Justin agreed sympathetically. “It’ll be cleaned up soon, Suzanna.”

“I hope,” she said, frowning.

“It will,” Carrie assured her. “Don’t worry.”

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