Cut, Paste, Kill - Chapter 1


She scraped the salmon croquettes from her dinner plate into the cats’ bowl.

Dizzy, the overweight tiger-striped tabby, took one ladylike nibble of the reheated, three-day-old fish, and walked off. Wayne, the black-and-white long hair, was curled up nose to tail in his favorite spot on the window seat. He didn’t even pretend to be interested.

“At least try it,” she said. “It’s got omega-3. It’s good for you.”

Wayne yawned, the cat equivalent of giving her the finger.

“I know,” she said. “If it’s so damn healthy, how come I didn’t eat it?”

She poured herself a cup of chai, stirred in five packets of Equal, added a splash of nonfat milk, and took a satisfying sip. Coffee gave her the jitters — definitely a handicap when you’ve got a pair of razor-sharp scissors in your hand. But the black tea had just enough caffeine to give her the kick she needed to work on her scrapbooks long into the night.

She opened a kitchen cabinet and pulled out a three-quart Tupperware storage bowl. Wayne bolted up.

“I figured this would get your testosterone going,” she said, laughing.

The lid was opaque, but the kiwi-colored bowl was transparent enough to see what was inside.

Ping-Pong balls.

Three weeks ago there were twenty. Each one carefully numbered with a fine-point Sharpie.

Numbers six and fifteen had already been pulled.

That left eighteen Ping-Pong balls. Eighteen possible victims.

She swirled the bowl around, and four cat ears went on point as the balls skittered softly against the sides.

“Lotto time,” she announced, as if the two smartest cats in Los Angeles needed any further explanation.

Then she shook the bowl vigorously. The little white celluloid spheres ricocheted against the polycarbonate container like a rattlesnake attacking a roll of bubble wrap.

Dizzy and Wayne were at her feet, swiping at her skirt, yowling for her to make her next move.

“Not so catatonic anymore, are we?” she said, trotting out the same old joke the kitties never seemed to get tired of hearing.

She pried off the top of the Tupperware and flung the contents against the kitchen wall.

The cats went batshit.

Dizzy waddled under the kitchen table in hot pursuit of a trio of balls. Wayne headed the other way, pounced on number 14, and sent it scooting under the stove.

Lotto night was traditionally a fish night, and since she had tossed the salmon, she decided to treat herself to some dessert. Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream. She took a pint from the freezer and put it in the microwave for thirty seconds to get it nice and soft.

As soon as the timer dinged, she grabbed a spoon and began digging into the carton of creamy chocolate that was laced with caramel swirls, gooey marshmallows, and little fudge fish.

She sat down at the table, just as both cats, chasing the same ball, collided head-on.

It was a total hoot, and she only wished she could tape it and post it on YouTube. Look everybody… here are my two cats helping me pick a murder victim. I call it Feline Felons.

It took three minutes before Wayne nosed one ball into a corner and sank his teeth into it.

“We have a winner,” she called out to the invisible crowd.

Wayne knew the drill. He hopped up on her lap, unclenched his teeth, and loudly demanded his reward.

“Number eleven,” she said, examining the ball.

She lifted the cat from her lap, went back to the cabinet, and removed a Ziploc bag filled with leaves and stems.

“Game, set, match,” she said to Dizzy, who was still too busy chasing Ping-Pong balls to know that the contest was over. “Nepeta cataria for everyone.”

She opened the bag, grabbed a small fistful of catnip, and sprinkled it on the kitchen floor. Both cats dove in.

She put on a clean pair of white cotton gloves, went to the bedroom, opened her closet, and twisted the dial on the four-hundred-and-seventy-pound AMSEC safe that protected her precious scrapbooks from fire, water, and nosy Parkers.

Each scrapbook was sealed in its own numbered manila envelope. She felt giddy as she removed number eleven from the safe’s plush velour interior. Although she had crafted every page of every scrapbook to perfection, she didn’t know which book was in which envelope.

That was the whole idea. Random selection. Each scrapbook went into an identical envelope, then the envelopes were shuffled and numbered.

Dizzy and Wayne chose the winner.

Or in this case, the loser.

She closed the four-inch-thick steel door, yanked the handle and listened as the dead bar clanked into the belly of the safe. She twirled the chrome-plated dial and carried the Lotto-winning envelope to the kitchen.

Sitting down at the table, she scraped up the dregs of the ice cream and sucked the spoon dry. “Would you like to see who you picked?” she asked.

But Dizzy and Wayne were too busy licking themselves, licking each other, and rolling around in the intoxicating weed.

She laughed as she tore open the manila envelope. “Stoners,” she said.

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