Cat Call was one of my favorite books to write. I got to utilize my own experience as an extra for various television shows being filmed in Portland. Grimm, Leverage, Librarians, and Portlandia are a few of my repertoire. Since COVID, the film industry has moved out of Portland, and I have gotten old, so it’s unlikely I’ll be doing much more of it, but it was fun while it lasted.
In Cat Call, Lynley takes the role of cat handler for a TV show that included cats. This is another job I have actually preformed in real life for the cult classic, Zombie Cats From Mars, though I was merely an assistant.
For cat-lovers who like clean mysteries with a little bite to them. Cat tips, tricks, and facts at the beginning of each chapter.
Cat Call, the 4th Crazy Cat Lady Cozy Mystery
When cat-handler Rhonda Kane is injured on the set of a TV mystery pilot, Lynley Cannon steps in to help. The sixty-something cat shelter volunteer is good with Rhonda’s identical red tabbies, but the production proves to be another story. Rumors fly of a mysterious “hex” causing mayhem and misfortune on set.
Hex, or a hoax?
A suspicious death is followed by murder, and Lynley enlists famed actor Ray Anderson and her own granddaughter Seleia to help expose a truth that could topple a career and destroy the show itself.
Praise for Cat Call:
5.0 out of 5 stars. Gets better and better! Reviewed in the United Kingdom.
OK, I admit I’m a cosy mystery fan! But, as we all know, there are cosy and there are cosy. This series is up there with the best…
One of the reasons this series works so very well is the authors own experiences with cats and cat rescues and adopting cats.
Lynley finds herself dropped into the deep end of the movie making business when she has to stand in for a cat wrangler on a movie set. Things start to get spooky, and dangerous and she ends up knee deep in trouble as things come tumbling down around her. OK I won’t give any more spoilers, but I have to say, this kept me going till the end.
— C. Watson
The message contained only three intelligible words: Call… Cat… Help! Interspersed was a garbled squawking that I recognized as the voice of my friend, Rhonda Kane. She sounded drunk, terrified, or both, blithering away like the Simpson’s crazy cat lady, which was ironic because usually I’m the lady considered crazy for cats. I have eight cats; Rhonda has only two, though hers happen to be movie stars.
My name is Lynley Cannon, and I’ll be the first to admit, eight is a lot of cats, but they are all well cared for and healthy. I have to take out a second mortgage on my Old Portland home when it’s time for their dentals, but that’s part of the deal. I love them dearly and they love me, each in his or her own catly way.
It began innocently enough with Dirty Harry. After life as a street stray, Harry was territorial, and I just assumed he wouldn’t tolerate a second cat encroaching on his space. As a shelter volunteer, I’d often heard statements like Missy won’t stand for another cat in the house, or Tom doesn’t get along with other kitties, or I’d love to have a kitten but Spot would throw a hissy-fit—he needs to be the only one, you know. I believed it for the longest time; then I got my little sweetheart, Little.
Granted, it took a while for Harry to get off his high horse and accept he could still be king, but I’ll never forget the first moment I saw them playing together. There was such joy in their antics. It took time but they became friends and now that Harry has hit his senior years, Little warms and grooms him like a sister. I don’t know what he would do without her.
The adoption of Little opened the gate to multiple cats. Next came Big Red, the orange tabby male who moved in on my side porch, then Solo, ghost-white, deaf, and totally reclusive, from a needy friend. Violet arrived sometime later, all twenty-two pounds of her, and then sweet Tinkerbelle. I rescued Mab, the Siamese kitten, from a disreputable breeder, and picked up Emilio when I was on an art retreat at the famous—and infamous—Cloverleaf Animal Sanctuary. So far, all good.
As a retiree in my sixtieth year, I have time for the cats. I have time for anything I please and manage to fill the hours with love and good works, volunteering, family, and friends. I was born for retirement and thank God every day I didn’t wait until I was sixty five—or seventy!—to take it.
But back to the voicemail message. I hadn’t seen Rhonda Kane for quite some time. We’d met at a feline behavior lecture series, and though she was nearly a decade younger than me, we immediately bonded. Ours was one of those friendships that just picks up where it left off, whether it’s been a week or a year. This time it was closer to the year.
Rhonda had continued the behavior training and become one of Portland’s only working cat handlers. With the Northwest’s budding film and television industry, it was turning out to be a rewarding if not lucrative pursuit. Her highly trained pair of actor-cats had starred in a few commercials, held a small but reoccurring role in the IFC production, Portlandia, and had even hit the big time once in an episode of Grimm. Since Clark Gable and Cary Grant were identical neutered males, they often played one part interchangeably.
Cat handling was meticulous work and Rhonda was the best, which was why the crazy communication was such a surprise and, yes, a shock. I recognize the sound of panic when I hear it. Something was very wrong with Rhonda Kane.
I’d just finished a shift at Friends of Felines cat shelter where I spent a big chunk of my time playing with cats and helping to keep them happy during their scary interim between homes. Without thought, I sank down on the bench in the volunteer locker room and hit redial. I held my breath as I waited for her to answer. One ring, three, seven. Just when I was sure it was going to cut off and give me the generic computer-generated click-Rhonda-click is not available at this time, she picked up.
“Lynley!” she gasped. “Thank goodness you called back.”
“Rhonda, what’s the matter? What’s happened?”
“Oh, Lynley!” She was crying now. “It’s so awful! You’ve got to help. You’ve got to… I don’t know. Come, quick as you can…” The voice wavered and threatened to devolve into crazy-cat-lady-speak again.
“Rhonda, hold on,” I commanded. “Just take your time and tell me what’s going on. Of course I’ll help, but first I have to know what’s up. Are you hurt? Are you in some kind of trouble?”
“Worse!” she hissed in a harsh whisper. “It’s Cary Grant!” Through the phone I heard her gulp. “He’s gone!”
* * *
I’d had a tough couple of years, been kidnaped and threatened with death, had acquaintances who were murdered, so my first thought when Rhonda finally revealed her terrible plight was, Big deal! That lasted only a millisecond, however, as my empathy clicked in and I grasped how crazed I would be if one of my clowder went missing. Still, cats do get lost; cats hide or get out and run away. I couldn’t believe Rhonda would take any chances with her valuable pair and assumed they were collared and microchipped. I also knew she had them trained to answer to their names. Chances were good that a concentrated search would turn up Cary Grant in a nearby cubby, golden eyes blinking innocently as if to say, What’s your problem? I know exactly where I am.
“Rhonda, tell me how it happened. From the beginning.”
On the other end of the line I heard her blow her nose. She sounded slightly more collected when next she spoke.
“Okay, Lynley. I really don’t know. We’re on a shoot in Oaks Bottom. Clark Gable and Cary Grant were in the trailer, waiting for their call. I only stepped out for a minute. When I came back, the trailer door was ajar and Cary Grant was gone. We’ve looked everywhere. The entire lot, but no sign of him. What if he’s lost in the wetlands or made it out onto the streets? What if I never see him again?”
“Hold on. You need to be strong. Cary Grant needs you to be strong.”
A big sigh. “You’re right, of course. Everybody’s searching, but it’s been over an hour. It will be dark soon, and the rain is relentless. Oh, Lynley, what should I do?”
“It sounds like you’re doing all the right things. I know it’s hard but have faith. How is Clark Gable?”
“He’s fine but anxious. He’s here on my lap being sweet, but he knows something’s wrong.”
“Okay,” I charged, sensing she needed a plan. “Hang on. Take care of Clark. Tell me where you are and I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
She gave me her location and a set of instructions how to find her in the park; I grabbed a raincoat and hat, my bag, and a bottle of drinking water. I considered what else I might need on a cat hunt and decided to throw in a can of Trader Joe’s Tuna-For-Cats, a particularly stinky concoction of fish that cats seem to love. With a quick goodbye to my own little crew, I set out for the Sellwood district.
It was nearly six-thirty; the April night would be on us soon. Rush-hour traffic should have been thinning out but wasn’t, and as I cursed and inched my way across town, I had time to think about what I was getting myself into. I certainly didn’t resent my friend calling me out of my nice warm home for a lost kitty. I knew what she must be going through, the fear and anxiety when one of our furred family is beyond our safety net. But it wasn’t the end of the world. I had no doubt Cary Grant would be found, half-expected my cell phone to ring at any moment with Rhonda saying thanks but never mind—he’s home safe. There would be a happy ending, there had to be. Then we would celebrate, maybe go to dinner, talk over old times and catch up on what’s new. Or maybe we’d order takeout to her trailer, a sumptuously furnished and catified vintage Airstream that she and her celebrity pair used for their gigs.
I had it all figured out, right down to what kind of pita sandwich I would order, when I arrived at the park. Little did I know that the missing cat was a mere forewarning of tragedies to come.