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The Halloween Cat Spell (EBOOK)

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Ebook. Book 20 in the bestselling The Kitchen Witch series of fun paranormal cozy mysteries.

The excitement of Halloween settles in Bayberry Creek, signalling the arrival of Marina Mercer and her yearly request for a Halloween spell. But this October is a little stranger than the others. 

While Amelia grants Marina's wish, she does not suspect the chaos it will unleash. The fate of Baby, the taxidermied cat, seemed sealed, yet a surprising secret is waiting to be uncovered.

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Chapter 1

My kitchen, a small, sun-kissed room filled with mismatched crockery bequeathed by Great-Aunts who had mysteriously disappeared in biplane accidents over the Pacific Ocean, was filled with the sweet aroma of honey and freshly baked bread (store-bought, that is) when Marina Mercer spoke the sacred words which had likely been on her mind for some months now, "I want you to turn me into a cat."
Tea spurted out of my nose as I choked. "You want me to turn you into a cat?"
Marina nodded solemnly. "My request makes total sense, Amelia. Total sense. In fact, I’m shocked I didn’t think to ask you for this spell earlier. I could have been a cat years ago.”
I sat there a moment, trying to process what Marina had just asked. Finally, I took a deep breath and replied, "Isn't turning into a cat a major life decision, like getting married or cutting your hair into a bob?"
“Oh, I don't want to be a cat forever.” Marina slammed her teacup down impatiently on the wooden table. “I want to be a cat just for a day."
“Just for a day?”
“It’s my father.”
“Is he a cat?”
“No,” Marina said crossly. “He isn’t a cat, Amelia. Please don’t be so silly.”
“Sorry, I just…”
“He’s a cat lover.” Marina pushed her tea cup aside. Reaching into the pocket of her coat, she took out a business card. This business card looked more like a very fancy invitation to a ball at a local country estate than anything else. The card stock was thick and so white it almost hurt my eyes to gaze upon its elegance. The font, which was cursive and foiled and thick, read thus:
Herbsaint Mercer
A Refined Gentleman with a Broad Understanding
And Keen Interest in the Breeding and Showing
Of Cats

“How did he get all that writing onto such a little business card?” I said more to myself than Marina.
She snatched the card out of my hand and stuffed it back in her pocket, as if embarrassed by what she had just shown me. “My father, Herbsaint, is far more interested in cats than he is in me. It’s been that way my whole life. I’m his only child, and yet is there a photo of me in his home?”
“No?” I guessed.
“No. There are no photos of me because I’m not a British Shorthair. Nor am I a Highland Fold.”
“Look, don’t sell yourself short there, Marina.”
“If you turn me into a cat, Amelia, then for one brief but glorious day I may finally know my father’s love.”
I was aghast. “I’m not sure this is a good idea.”
“He’s getting on a bit, you know. My father. I don’t have forever to turn into a cat.”
“Who does?”
“So, you’ll do it? You do have to grant me a spell, as you well know.”
I didn’t see how I had a choice, really. There was no getting around the fact that every Halloween I had to do a spell for Marina Mercer. “Well, let me grab my grandmother’s grimoire,” I said finally. “I have never done a spell like this before, Marina. It might take me a moment to figure out. In fact, I seriously doubt it’s even possible.”
I left Marina sitting at my kitchen table as I stepped into my study. My grandmother’s grimoire, a book with pages so ancient they crackled as you turned them, was sitting on a lectern in the middle of the room. As I picked up the book, I locked eyes with Baby, the stuffed cat, which sat on my desk. Was it my imagination, or did some life exist behind those creepy glass eyes? I shook my head. No, I was just thinking about cats a little too much because of Marina’s request.
“Strange day, Baby,” I said to the cat as I softly closed the study door.
After I returned to the kitchen, I placed the giant grimoire on the table and leafed through its pages. Dust mushroomed in clouds into the air, and soon Marina and I were coughing and spluttering, unable to see because our eyes were filled with water.
“Ah, here it is,” I said after five minutes. “A spell to turn enemies into toads. That’s the best we will find.”
“I don’t want to be a toad,” Marina said.
“Don’t worry. I can change the spell so it’s for a cat instead. Are you sure you want to do this?
“Yes,” Marina said at once. “Do the spell right now, Amelia. My father’s currently staying at the Bayberry Creek Grand Hotel. He’s in town for the cat show. When I’m a cat, please take me to him. You remember his name?”
“Herbsaint Mercer.”
“One other thing, Amelia. I need to be a purebred cat. Perhaps a Norwegian Forest. Or a Scottish Fold. My father only loves purebred cats of high show quality. Nothing else. He’s a horrible snob.”
“Understood.”
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and focused on turning Marina into a cat following the instructions of the spell in my grandmother’s grimoire. I felt my fingers tingling, and then my toes, and then my cheeks, and then my nose. There was a minor explosion followed by the smell of wood burning.
I heard Marina start to speak, and then I heard Marina start to meow.
When I opened my eyes and looked though the smoke, there was a Siamese cat sitting on Marina’s chair. I couldn’t believe it. I had done a spell and actually turned somebody into a cat!
“Marina.”
“Meow!”
“I’m a genius!” I cried softly. “I’m the best witch in the whole entire world! I can’t wait to tell Alder I did a spell that turned somebody into a cat! I did it!”
That is when a strange voice said, “Excuse me, Madam?”
My heart stopped. I turned to see a naked man standing in my kitchen.
“Um, hi,” I said awkwardly.
“Hello,” he replied. “You wouldn’t mind passing me a tea towel, would you? There’s a dear.”
I was struck mute with shock. I didn’t think he was a burglar. He wasn’t concealing a weapon. He wasn’t concealing… well, anything at all, really.
He cleared his throat. “A tea towel? I need it to cover my modesty.”
I wordlessly handed him one.
“Thank you.”
“You’re a naked man!” I exclaimed. “Are you aware that you’re a naked man?”
“I am.”
“You are a naked man who’s naked in my kitchen?”
“Indeed.” He cleared his throat. “You did not happen to read the warning on the spell you just completed by any chance, did you?”
“Warning?” I turned back to the grimoire.
In big, red letters just beneath the spell was the word, Warning. The text beneath the ominous title read:
“According to the Granny's Magical Principle of Equivalent Exchange, what one wants to gain must hold an equivalent value to what one is willing to give. If a person wishes to transform someone into a toad, then a toad must be turned into a someone.”
“Oh,” I said sheepishly, “I missed that. So when I turned Marina into a cat, I also turned a cat into a person?”
“Correct,” the naked man said. “And that cat would be me.”
“You?”
“Meow,” he replied.
“Wait.” There was a strange feeling in my gut. I gazed at the naked man. I knew those eyes. I’d looked into them time and time again. “You’re Baby! You’re my stuffed cat!”
“It is rather impolite to call people stuffed cats.”
I gulped.
“And Baby isn’t my name, though I’ve grown rather fond of the moniker. No, my name is Tenebrous Tiberius Thistledown Thunderclap the Third. I am an evil warlock.”
“An evil warlock?” I cried.
“Perhaps centuries as a cat has mellowed my murderous inclinations.”
“Um, um,” was all I could manage.
“I don’t mean to be pushy, but am I to be a person again full time, or will I return to my cat form when the clock strikes midnight?”
A cold chill descended upon me. “How would I know?”
“It’s your spell.”
“Meow,” Marina agreed. I’d almost forgotten she was there.
“Right. Okay. Listen, Telescope Titan Trousers Topaz the Third, first things first. I need to take this Siamese cat to her father at the Bayberry Creek Grand Hotel. You need to hide before my husband comes home. I don’t want him to see you before I can explain what’s happened.”
“Too late,” Alder said, stepping through the door. “My love, is there a good reason why a naked man is standing in our kitchen?”
“I couldn’t find him a chair,” I replied. I wanted to slap myself on the forehead. This day was getting out of control, and it was still the early afternoon. “Alder, this is Baby.”
“What? Our stuffed cat?”
Baby nodded. “It is I. Though I do prefer the name Tenebrous Tiberius Thistledown Thunderclap the Third.”
I pointed to Marina. “And that cat is Marina Mercer.”
Alder gazed down at the Siamese, his eyes widening. “What?” he said again. “Why is Marina Mercer a cat?”
“Because she wants to feel her father’s love.”
“I need to sit down.”
“No chairs,” I said. I must have blown them up when doing the spell.
Alder slumped against the fridge, his skin pink. He tugged at his collar as if he couldn’t breathe. “What on earth is going on here, Amelia?”
I took a deep breath and explained about the toad spell.
“But she’s not a toad,” Alder said, flummoxed. “She’s a cat!”
“Just for a day,” I replied. “At least, I hope it’s just for the day. So we had better take her to her father now while she’s still a cat.”
“Who is her father?”
“According to his business card, he’s a refined gentleman with a broad understanding and keen interest in the breeding and showing of cats.”
“He managed to fit all that onto a business card?” Alder said. He almost sounded impressed.
“Can I come?” Baby asked.
Alder and I both turned to look at the naked man. “Actually,” I said after a moment, “it’s safer if you’re with us so we can keep an eye on you, but Alder will need to give you some clothes.”
Twenty minutes later, I stood in the elegant lobby of the Bayberry Creek Grand Hotel with Alder, Baby, and Marina Mercer. Marina was purring happily in a cat cage, and Baby was purring happily at the hotel’s front desk clerk.
“Do you need a throat lozenge?” the clerk asked nervously.
Baby meowed.
“He’s Norwegian,” Alder said to the clerk. “A cousin. Just got into town.”
“I see.” The clerk looked up and adjusted his glasses as he studied Baby with a raised eyebrow. “Norwegian. Yes. One can tell. How can I help you today, Mr Vervain?”
“We’re here to see Herbsaint Mercer.”
The clerk’s face turned a deathly shade of white. “Herbsaint Mercer? Are you sure? He’s rather an uptight sort of a gentleman. Of course, one does not like to talk poorly of one’s guests.”
“We have his daughter,” Alder replied, nodding to the cat carry case. “I mean, his cat. His cat. Not his daughter. What a weird thing to say.”
“Well, this is a cat friendly hotel,” the clerk said. “It has to be, what with the biggest cat show in the state taking place in this very town.”
“We wouldn’t like to keep Mr Mercer waiting,” I said.
“No. No, that would infuriate him,” the clerk agreed. “And I don’t want any more of my staff to suffer from third degree burns after he’s thrown another coffee. That man should be in jail, you know. But the rich get away with anything they like. Well, if you’re sure you want to see Mr Mercer, he is in the penthouse. Please take this mail to him. We’re too afraid to do it ourselves.”
I took the letters from the clerk and followed Alder into the elevator. Shortly, we arrived at the penthouse apartment. I knocked on the door, but no one answered.
“Maybe we just leave a note under the door?” I said finally. Both Alder and Baby agreed. As I pushed the note and the mail under the door, the door moved. “It’s open,” I said in surprise.
I stepped inside the penthouse apartment.
There, lying on the floor, was Herbsaint Mercer.
He was dead.