About the Author

Louise Carson

Born in Montreal and raised in Hudson, Quebec, Louise Carson studied music in Montreal and Toronto, played jazz piano, and sang in the chorus of the Canadian Opera Company. Her previous books include the literary mysteries The Cat Among Us and Executor, and the poetry collection A Clearing. Her poems have also been published coast to coast as well as in The Best Canadian Poetry 2013. She's twice been short-listed in FreeFall Magazine 's annual contest, and her poem “Plastic bucket” won a Manitoba Magazine Award for Prairie Fire. Louise has read her work in the Montreal area, Ottawa, Toronto, Saskatoon and New York City. She lives in rural Quebec, where she gardens, writes, and teaches music.

Books by this Author
A Clearing

The fields begin to shield themselves

The fields begin to shield themselves in some soft metal underfoot as they ripen into hardness. The air quiets. Except for Christmas’ three-week hum, traffic thins. Some life has left the earth, been driven down and in. The metal spreads its silent hymn that sings of hardship, night; of frozen beings, their signals lost; records the broken keen of almost dogs. They spread out as they run for meat. Under the trees their lines bisect the rabbits’ shorter curves. Life joins life: gray fur, brown fur, metallic scent of blood.

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Cat Between, The

Bob, meanwhile, was nosing around in the backyard. He sniffed, stiffened and retreated up a tree, only to smell along one long thick bough and hastily rejoin Gerry on the ground. “Whoa, Bob, found something scary?” She examined the tracks under the tree and followed them to the back door.

They were different from any Gerry had previously seen, bigger than a cat’s, oval where most cats’ or dogs’ were round. She sucked in her breath when she saw the long claw marks in the snow. “Yikes, no wonder you’re freaked out. Come here.” She picked Bob up in her arms. “You don’t want to meet up with the owner of those.”

Bob struggled to be let go and disappeared around the far side of the house. Before she followed him, Gerry bent over and looked closely at a hole in the siding low to the ground. Big enough for a cat, she reasoned, or perhaps whatever possessed those frightening claws. She went to look for Bob and found him sitting in a window box with one paw hooked under the edge of a board that had been hammered on to cover a window. Gerry looked furtively toward the road. No one passing. She pulled on the board and it came away easily, its wood crumbling in the nail holes. “Rotten,” she said and set it down under the window, which, to her surprise, was intact. So the plywood was to protect the glass not instead of it, she realized. She pushed the window up. As it opened, Bob darted in. “In for a penny,” she muttered, pushing it all the way up, and stepped in.

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tagged : medical, literary
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He followed the official down several hallways until they paused outside a door. The young man knocked and entered. The older civil servant behind the desk rose and shook Peter's hand, gesturing for him" to take a seat and brusquely waving the younger man away. Peter noticed the little Canadian flag pin in his left lapel.

The man spoke aggressively. "Mr. Forrest, my name is Macdonald and my job is to make sure Canadians in China have as little trouble with the authorities as possible."

"Am I in trouble?" Peter couldn't help it. His voice stuck and rasped in his throat. Annie looked up at his face.

"No, no. It's more a matter of confirming a report made by a third party about an incident at the orphanage you visited a few days ago in Fujian province. Could you tell us in your own words what happened there?"

So Peter spoke about Chen, the drive to the orphanage, the army-occupied building next door to the orphanage, how nice the orphanage looked, the fire there and their subsequent exit, how the soldiers had come to put out the fire and how he had then been driven back to the airport.

"And those things were all that you saw, all that struck you?" Macdonald looked sharply at Peter as he spoke.

Peter wished he knew whether the man wanted full disclosure for some reason of security or would just as rather he, Peter, kept quiet about seeing the surgeons come up from the orphanage basement. It was Annie who decided him. The most important thing now was to get her back to Canada.

"That's it. For an orphanage, I thought it was situated in a great spot, lots of plants and forest in the background. The children looked happy. The staff were nice people." He looked blandly at Macdonald.

The man held his gaze for a moment then made a note. "Thank you for your time,"' he said, rising and shaking hands again. "Enjoy your trip and safe voyage home."

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The Cat Among Us

"And to my niece, Geraldine Coneybear, I leave my house, The Maples, and all the contents therein, except those previously mentioned, as well as the sum of fifty thousand dollars to assist her in its maintenance."

Gerry jerked upright. Andrew was shaking her hand as the other relatives crowded around. "Wow, Gerry! Fantastic! Good for you."

"Yes, Gerry. Lucky you." Margaret, Andrew's older sister, named for their aunt, loomed, her three glum-looking sons flanking her. Gerry had no more than a second to get the impression of grinding teeth before her Aunt Mary, Maggie's sister and Margaret's mother, replaced her.

"Gerry!" She threw her arms around her niece then held her at arm's length. "More like Deborah every day! She was so glamorous, your mother. That red hair and creamy skin. And that fabulous figure." Here she raked Gerry head to toe with a critical glance.

Her husband, Geoff looked embarrassed, but then, Gerry reflected, he'd had a lot of practice. "How are you, Gerry? Good to see you." He pecked her on the cheek. "Are you surprised to be Maggie's heir?"

"Totally, Uncle Geoff," Gerry replied, rubbing at the lipstick she knew Aunt Mary had pressed onto the side of her nose. She leaned forward and quietly asked, "Did I get it all?"

Unfortunately, her query coincided with a lull in the general conversation.

"Weren't you paying attention, Gerry?" Margaret said coldly. "You get it all. Everything. The house, land, furniture, the paintings." She seemed to choke on this last word, and everyone stood still, very embarrassed.

Gerry, now fumbling for a tissue in her pocket, replied, "I meant the lipstick Auntie left on my nose. Have I removed all of it?"

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The Cat Vanishes

“Bob! Where are you?” Nothing. She edged around the wood to the back wall of the shed where the blue tarp sagged. She frowned. Something had happened to the woodpile. It had collapsed. “Now what?” she muttered. She looked down into a hole full of firewood.

“Cripes! The tree hit the roof, and hit the woodpile, which went through the floor.”

“Miaou!” came from the hole.

“Bob? I can’t see you.”

Bob appeared, dragging something.

“What is it, Bob? The rest of that chicken?” Gerry teased.

But this bone was too large for Bob to lift. Gerry got down on her knees, then had to shift to her belly. “Have you got a dead ox down there, Bob?” Her fingers closed on the bone and she raised it towards her face. She knew this one had come from no farmyard animal.

After the police had left, taking as many of the bones as they could find and forbidding Gerry to go near the hole – why would she want to? she gloomily wondered – she made her usual afternoon coffee.

She felt a bit sick. It was all very well for Prudence to experience whatever it was she’d experienced, but actual bones in the ground on Gerry’s property – well, that wasn’t even a bit entertaining.

She sat in front of the fire, clutching her mug. “At least I took out lots of wood before, before – where is Bob now?” She’d totally forgotten him in the dizzying flurry of activity which had followed their grisly discovery.

She’d phoned 911 but had been clear this was no emergency, so had been given another number to call, had called it, had mumbled a few words about finding old bones under her shed floor, and waited.

It must have been a slow day because someone came rather soon, took a look and phoned someone else. The someone else came with a few people and collected the bones. “Not to worry, miss,” one of them said, “we can tell they’re old.”

“Prehistoric?” Gerry asked hopefully.

The woman laughed. “Not that old. But old enough that we know we’re not looking at a fresh crime.”

Nevertheless, thought Gerry, absently fondling the kittens in their box, this house has been in my family for over a hundred and fifty years. Someone must have known who was buried or laid there. Someone must have known.

“The bone!” She rushed to the kitchen garbage and rummaged until her fingers closed around the bone Bob had brought to her bedroom. “I should give that to the police.” She put it on the mantel.

She ran a hot bath and soaked, which usually helped when she felt upset, then changed into her trusty black dress, black tights and funky ankle-high black boots. “Colour. I need colour.” She rummaged until she found a gauzy green scarf. She even put on lipstick. As usual, she cheered up when she looked at her reflection. Dark red hair, blue-green eyes, freckles. “Enjoy yourself!” she urged, thinking of the bones. “Life is short.”

When she got to the inn, one of the Parsley teens was there to direct her to a parking place. As she gave her coat to another teen in the lobby, she joked, “Don’t your parents ever give you kids time off?” The girl smiled sourly. Gerry slunk into the dining room, then straightened, glad she’d dressed up.

Live music – a singer and a guitarist – performed softly from one corner. A roaring fire blazed. And many, many Parsleys and other notables of Lovering filled the room with happy chatter.

Gerry took a glass of white wine from a youngster behind a table and looked around for her hosts. Betty Parsley was probably supervising in the kitchen. A roar of laughter told her she’d located Phil Parsley, standing with a group of men. Gerry walked over to the group. “And then I said, ‘Will no one rid me of this nagging wife?’” The men burst into laughter.

Gerry flinched but nonetheless said, “Merry Christmas, Phil. It’s nice to be here.”

“Gerry!” A large man, Phil gave her a bear hug. Obviously, he was already full of good cheer. “Glad you could make it. Cats not keeping you too busy? Not coughed up too many furballs?” He roared with laughter at this incredible piece of wit and his cronies joined in.

Gerry’s eyes widened but she kept her smile fixed in place. “No, no. They’re no trouble. Oh, is that –?” She pretended to see someone she knew over by the buffet table and retreated.

She knew it. The town saw her as a laughingstock. A solitary female living with twenty three cats. She fumed as she piled food on her plate. She’d show them. She’d –

“Hey, Gerry, leave some for the rest of us,” a quiet voice urged at her elbow.

She turned, ready to lash out, but saw only Doug Shapland’s nice face and unassuming smile. She looked at her plate. It was laden with mini-quiches, fried shrimp, roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes. “Oh, my gosh, Doug. You take half.” She scraped a portion onto his empty plate. “I guess I was blinded by fury.”

“Sounds serious. Let’s get a table.”

The restaurant tables had been bunched up on one side of the room so people could circulate, chat or dance. They found a good spot near a window and ate their supper. Well, Doug ate. Gerry just stared at her food.

“It’s the cat thing. People make remarks. I get angry.”

He paused eating to say, “Your quiches are getting cold.”

She bit into one and relaxed. “Spinach, nutmeg, Swiss cheese. Yum. As good as Cathy’s.”

“She may have made them,” he replied. “I think Betty buys from her. That’s better. As for the cat thing, embrace it. Make it work for you.”

“How would I do that?” She took another quiche from Doug’s plate – mushroom and thyme in a cream sauce.

“I dunno. You’re an artist. Paint portraits of the cats. Support a spay and neuter clinic with the profits. Protest pet stores selling cats when so many are in shelters.”

Gerry said slowly, “You mean really become a crazy cat lady, but do good with it.”

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