Excerpt for Boxed Set Plus Bonus Story: Cat in the Flock, Framed and Burning, Bound to the Truth: Dreamslippers Series by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Praise for the Dreamslippers Series


Cat in the Flock


The launch of an intriguing female detective series... A mystery with an unusual twist and quirky settings; an enjoyable surprise for fans of the genre.” — Kirkus Reviews


Clearly author Lisa Brunette has a genuine flair for deftly crafting a superbly entertaining mystery/suspense thriller. Cat in the Flock is a terrific read…” — Helen Dumont, Midwest Book Review


Brunette’s portrayals of Cat and Granny Grace are nothing short of genius.” — On My Kindle


A fascinating plot populated with interesting and engaging characters.” The Wishing Shelf Awards


Already hooked, this reader intends further sojourns in Cat’s dreamslipping world. Highly recommended.” — Frances Carden, Readers Lane


Filled with twists and turns, humor, a little romance, and suspense, this refreshing take on the world of private investigating will appeal to readers of many different genres.” — Janna Shay, inD’tale


“A fascinating tale of mystery, romance, and what one woman's dreams are made of. Brunette will keep you awake far into the night.” — Mary Daheim, bestselling author of the Bed-and-Breakfast and Emma Lord/Alpine mysteries


Gripping, sexy and profound, Cat in the Flock is an excellent first novel. Lisa Brunette is an author to enjoy now and watch for the future.” — Jon Talton, author of the David Mapstone Mysteries, the Cincinnati Casebooks and the thriller Deadline Man


A drinkable, page-turning thriller that poses questions about faith, family, sexuality, and secrecy in an authentically rendered Seattle landscape.” — Corrina Wycoff, author of O Street and Damascus House


“A little Sue Grafton and a dose of Janet Evanovich, mixed with the issues of closeted, born-again Christians, Iraq war veterans with PTSD, and rival love interests for ‘Cat’ Cathedral, is just the right recipe for a promising new series.” — Rev. Eric O'del, Amazing Grace Spiritual Center


Framed and Burning


Lisa Brunette’s Framed and Burning is a brilliant, suspenseful whodunit in its own merit, full of twists and turns, pursued by a unique pair of private investigators—Cat and her grandmother Grace, in a character-as-well-as-plot-driven ride pulsating with the crisis not only in the murder investigation, but also in their own lives. What’s more, the introduction of the original practice of dreamslipping—their capability of ‘slipping’ into other people’s dreams—adds to another dimension of the novel. Far from making it semi-sci-fi or something like that, it fantastically blends the Freudian dream interpretation with the crime analysis in a new depth. The book, truly one of the kind, calls for attention of the readers devoted to the genre and in general.” — Qiu Xiaolong, author of Shanghai Redemption, named one of The Wall Street Journal's Best Books of 2015


Framed and Burning isn’t afraid to play with you and then terrify you. It’s a mystery with teeth and wounds and loss. Unforgettable, charming in the creation of the characters and world, serpentine and dark, Framed and Burning is a mystery not to be missed.” — Frances Carden, Readers Lane


This cozy mystery about a family of psychically gifted amateur sleuths possesses enough magic to keep you hooked from the first page until the last.” — BestThrillers.com


I’ve become a Lisa Brunette fan with this read.” — Sherrey Meyer, Puddletown Reviews


This is a fun book, much more fast-paced than a cozy, but without the gruesome and gory details of real crime mystery novels.” — Mystery Sequels


A savory mystery with a side of supernatural.” — Frankie Brazelton, Mudville Dames


Framed and Burning is the second book in the Dreamslippers series. It’s easy to follow and hard to put down, making readers who may not have read the first book race back to give it a try!” — InD’tale Magazine


Lisa Brunette continues to develop vibrant characters in a stunning story that will keep you reading well past your bedtime!” — On My Kindle


Deeply intriguing right from the start! I definitely have to get my hands on the first novel of the series!” — Book-o-Craze


I love a good, eccentric granny character, and Grace is in the top five granny characters I've encountered this year.” — Back Porchervations


All credit to the author for holding my interest over the busy festive season!” — Ali, the Dragon Slayer


It was interesting to see how the dreamslippers worked, as each one had a different method of invading and analyzing dreams. Framed and Burning is a book I recommend reading.” — Michelle Stanley, Writer Way


This book had me hooked right from the beginning! I love the characters!” — Pari’s Books


A great mystery with lots of potential killers and twists and turns.” — J. Bronder Book Reviews


Just when they thought the case was solved, there were more questions…” — Mel’s Shelves


I believe this is going to be a great series, and I can’t wait to go back to book one and learn more about Cat and Grace’s dreamslipping.” — Genuine Jenn


Bound to the Truth


I found myself completely submerged in this story of intrigue.” — Book Fidelity


A total whodunit mystery that will keep you on edge until the very end!” — Sage Adderley, Sage’s Blog Tours


I loved following along as they had to dig deep to find the killer.” — J. Bronder Book Reviews


Bound to the Truth is a tantalizing, surprising, mind-bending mystery with larger-than-life personalities who are outstandingly down-to-earth. I loved every quirky adventure that Grace and Cat found themselves in, and I am dying to read more!” — On My Kindle

All rights reserved. Except for use in a review, no portion of this book may be reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the publisher.

Neither the author nor the publisher assumes any responsibility for the use or misuse of any information contained in this book.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Dreamslippers Series Boxed Set Plus Bonus Story

by Lisa Brunette

Copyright © 2017 by Lisa Brunette

Cover Design: Lisa Brunette and Monika Younger, www.youngerbookdesign.com

Author Photography: Regan House Photo


Published in the United States of America


Published by Sky Harbor Press, an imprint of Sky Harbor LLC



P.O. Box 642

Chehalis, WA 98532

skyharborllc@gmail.com


Direct inquiries to the above address


Author Web Site: www.lisa-brunette.com

>>>Recognition for the Dreamslippers Series <<<


Two-Time Winner of the indieBRAG Medallion for Cat in the Flock and Framed and Burning.


Framed and Burning was a finalist for the Nancy Pearl Book Award and a RONE Award nominee.


Bound to the Truth won a Curtie Curt Award from Mello & June’s Book Blog.


>>>Author’s Note<<<


A portion of the sales of Cat in the Flock were donated to Jubilee Women’s Center, which provides safe and affordable community housing and support services to help women transition out of homelessness and into independent living. Donations tied to the launch of Bound to the Truth were also made to the Human Response Network, an organization that provides advocates to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, and to support Standing Rock.


>>>Also by Lisa Brunette<<<

The Dreamslippers Series

Cat in the Flock

Framed and Burning

Bound to the Truth

Poetry

Broom of Anger

The Out of the Blue Series

Birdy

Her Mother’s Shoes

Spy Boy



The Dreamslippers Series

Cat in the Flock, Book One

Framed and Burning, Book Two

Bound to the Truth, Book Three

by Lisa Brunette

Sky Harbor Press







To anyone who’s ever sought truth

in a dream.




Cat in the Flock

Book One



by Lisa Brunette

Sky Harbor Press

Prologue


Sherrie marched into her daughter’s bedroom and dragged a child-sized roller bag suitcase out of the closet. The girl stood in the middle of the room, still in her pajamas. Milk from breakfast had dried around the edges of her lips.

“Ruthie,” the mother said. “I need you to get dressed. We’re going to take a…trip.” Sherrie tried to make her voice sound cheery, but the desperation she felt came through in her tone.

“What’s wrong, Mommy?”

Sherrie set the suitcase on the bed. The bubble-gum pink had once seemed innocent but now looked fleshy and indecent. She glanced at the clock over the bed. He’d been golfing for a good fifteen minutes by now, long enough for her to make sure he didn’t come back for a favorite club or the right gloves. She wanted to be on that morning flight by the time he got home and discovered them gone.

She flung open the chest of drawers and grabbed all of the girl’s socks and underwear, a pair of corduroy pants, black cotton tights, a sweater the color of a Midwestern sky. Nothing pink. Only warm things. Seattle in her memory was cold and wet. It was a grey city; grey clouds over grey buildings. Even the water was grey.

One doll would fit. Made of cloth, it could be folded in on itself and slid down the backside of the suitcase.

“Can I bring the ballerina skirt?”

Any other day, she would have corrected her daughter, who needed to learn the precise names of things. Tutu. There it was in the closet, hanging because it took up too much room in the drawer. She yanked it free, sending the hanger to the floor. Ordinarily, she would pick that up; her house was so clean it hurt her eyes with its spareness—as if theirs were a showroom house, not lived in. She left the hanger there, aware of the thrill this fraction of disobedience gave her. She shoved everything into the little pink case, but with the fluffy tulle taking up so much space, the zipper would not close. The choice was clear. The doll would be a comfort to Ruthie in Seattle, but the tutu would not.

“We’ll come back for this later,” she said, tossing the tutu onto the bed. The zipper closed, the sound of it satisfying.

“No, Mommy!” Ruthie stomped her foot. “I want it now!”

“Then you’re going to have to wear it. Now get dressed while I pack my clothes.” But she felt a pang of guilt for her reprimanding tone, and for having to leave the tutu. Bending down, she used her thumb to wipe some of the milk crust from her daughter’s face. “I’ll let you wear anything you want on this trip, okay, sweetheart? And clean your face with the cloth in the bathroom, like Mommy showed you.”

The girl nodded, as if sensing this was not the time for a tantrum.

Sherrie’s own packing, she did with even less consideration. Under things, shirts. A fleece hoodie. Warm socks. She remembered she needed layers in Seattle. Sometimes it could seem warm even though it rained and the sun had not come out for weeks. Her keepsakes in their tiny, locked chest would not fit. They were the only things she had to remind herself of her life before this, but she would have to leave them behind.

Sherrie kept watch on the clock and glanced out the window twice to make sure his car wasn’t out front even though she knew he wouldn’t be home for another hour. The sun had risen blood-red over the cornfields in the distance, lighting them as if on fire. She’d miss that. And she thought of thunderstorms, which seemed never to occur in Seattle. She’d miss those, too.

Ruthie appeared in the doorway. Her face was clean, but none of her clothes matched. She was wearing pink high-tops that seemed wrong for the city they were going to, the situation, and everything else, but she had apparently decided not to wear the tutu.

“Time to leave.” She took the girl’s hand, promising to herself she’d never let go.


Chapter One


She was in a child’s bed, a Hello Kitty blanket pulled up to her chin. Stuffed animals surrounded her: a little plush frog with googly eyes, a duck with a faux-leather beak. She heard something that sounded like a fire crackling, and a wash of hot air blew her hair back. Fire materialized in the space above her bed, a devilish man emerging from the flames. He was red, with hooved feet, and he carried a pitchfork. He was floating above her, his veined, leathery wings beating with methodic slowness. She gasped, unable to breathe, unable to scream. The phrase “Mommy, help me” formed in the back of her throat, but she was too afraid to voice it. The devil pointed his pitchfork at her. His eyes were dark as ink and bore into hers.

“Ruthie,” he said, shaking his head, “I can’t let you get away.” He raised his pitchfork up and then down, sinking it through the bedspread and right between her legs.


Cat woke with a start, gasping and sweating, the sounds of the plane’s engines in her ears, soon joined by the sound of a little girl crying. Despite her best efforts not to, Cat had fallen asleep on the long flight from St. Louis, and she’d slipped into someone else’s dream. Cat sat up, wiping the sweat from her brow. She wondered who “Ruthie” was. That’s what the devil had called her in the dream.

Shaking off the image, her senses returning, Cat realized there was a good chance that “Ruthie” was the girl who was crying in the back of the plane. Cat turned around to see if she could spot her. The seat backs were too high. She unfastened her seat belt and stood up as if to stretch. Nothing in the front rows. She turned and looked behind her. The crying seemed to come from the right side of the cabin. Also coming from that direction was a woman’s troubled voice: “It’s okay. We’ll be there soon. Everything will be okay.”

Cat followed the sound of the woman’s voice, and there was the girl, sobbing into the woman’s arms.

Conscious of staring too much, Cat sat back down. She burned with a strange sense of frustration and embarrassment. Her dreamslipping experiences always told her just enough about people to feel as if she were a Peeping Tom, voyeuristically sneaking into the minds of her dreamers. On the other hand, the dreams told her so little about who her dreamers really were. With strangers especially, she lacked the context that would make the dreams make more sense, give her something to hang them on.

It was Cat’s greatest hope that her grandmother, Grace, who shared her dreamslipping ability, would be able to help her do something useful with these dreams. That’s why she was moving clear across the country from St. Louis to Seattle: to apprentice with Granny Grace, who had for most of her life used dreamslipping to solve crimes as a private investigator. As Cat’s dreams had mostly been an awkward inconvenience in her life so far, Cat felt the weight of all that she had to learn. She sighed and settled back into her book just as she heard the girl’s crying subside.

Cat saw the woman and girl once again when they landed at Sea-Tac Airport. The child was in that stage that Cat found amusing in little girls, when they begin to express themselves by dressing in outrageous, girly color combinations. She wore pink high-top tennis shoes with purple pants and a clashing yellow top. In her hair was a fuchsia bow with blue polka dots. They walked on ahead of her as if in a hurry. The woman, who was likely the girl’s mother, tugged her daughter along after her as the child tried to keep up on skinny little legs. The girl was pulling a tiny pink suitcase on roller wheels with rainbow-colored letters spelling her name, R-U-T-H, across the front.

Ruthie, the devil had said, I can’t let you get away. Get away? In little-girl speak, that could mean go on a trip, or a move. But Cat couldn’t tell by their carry-ons whether they were on a trip or moving across the country, as she was. Cat lost sight of them in the crowded corridor, and she felt a pang of regret. If only she could have helped that girl...

She neared the security entrance and scanned the crowd for her grandmother, who was never hard to spot.

As if the oversized, pink-feathered hat weren’t enough to catch the eye, Granny Grace was waving both glove-clad hands at Cat. Her grandmother was dressed as if she herself had been on a trip, in another time period when travel was a rare activity to be done in one’s best attire. The hat was pale pink, wide-brimmed, and adorned with glorious pink-and-cream feathers. She wore a smart brown safari dress with a wide pink belt to match the hat. Of course Granny Grace had donned heels—of a sensible height for strolling through an airport on a Sunday afternoon—but heels nonetheless. Cat recognized them as a pair of calfskin Etienne Aigners that Granny Grace had had for years.

“Cathedral Grace McCormick.” Granny’s voice rang out over the din of roller-bags and shuffling footsteps.

Amazing Grace,” Cat answered as her grandmother swept her into a warm hug. “Amazing” really was the woman’s legal first name; she’d had it changed during her last divorce. And “Cathedral” really was Cat’s legal name. But she had her very Catholic mother to thank for that one. As Granny Grace put it, “The ones who convert are always the most fervent.”

Cat inhaled her grandmother’s scent: a mixture of the incense Granny Grace burned in her house, Halston perfume, and peppermint Altoids.

Granny Grace appraised Cat with keen eyes. “Still sporting the college-girl look, I see,” she said. Cat wore blue Converse high-tops, jeans with a hole in one knee, and a hoodie. Her carry-on was a backpack, and she had an iPod clipped to her hoodie, the earbuds dangling. Her unruly brown hair was in a no-nonsense ponytail.

“Grandma,” Cat whined. “It was a five-hour flight.” She paused for effect. “With a connection. In Phoenix.”

She received a “hmpf” in return, and off they went to track down Cat’s checked bags.

Once they’d secured the luggage, Cat was thrilled to see that Granny Grace had decided to pick her up in Siddhartha, named after the Buddha himself. “I’ve always preferred his first name,” explained her grandmother. Siddhartha was a beautiful ’67 Mercedes in mint condition. It was pale yellow, with buttercream leather seats and a convertible top that had never once leaked, her grandmother boasted, despite Seattle’s persistent rain. It was a completely impractical car for a seventy-seven-year-old retiree to have, but it fit Granny Grace to a tee. She’d even indulged in a vanity plate: GRACEFUL. It was as graceful a car as ever was built. “With me in the car,” she quipped, “it’s literally full of Grace.”

Granny Grace took off the gorgeous hat, secured it in the back seat, dug a scarf out of her purse, and wrapped it around her hair, which had been meticulously coiffed, Cat knew, by a young hippie stylist that Granny Grace favored. She perched a pair of oversized Jackie O. sunglasses on her nose. “Looks like your ponytail is appropriate after all,” she said with a smile as she put the car in gear.

Ah, Seattle. It had been a couple years since Cat had been able to fly out for a visit. She loved the sea-salt smell, the calm expanse of Puget Sound, and the fact that no matter what time of year she visited, her eyes rested on lovely evergreen. Back in St. Louis, everything turned brown and died for at least three months out of the year. Here it was early spring and warm enough to have the top down, with a slight chill in the air. It should have been raining, but the sun was peeking out of the clouds as it began to set in the west, creating pearlescent purples and pinks as the light bounced between the water and the clouds. “Oyster light,” Granny Grace called it, like the light playing on an oyster shell.

They couldn’t really talk on the drive, what with the wind rushing through, but Cat smiled at her grandmother a few times, who smiled back and once took her hand off the gearshift to squeeze Cat’s. They drove home on the Viaduct, both of them aware that its days were numbered; not earthquake-safe, the elevated roadway would be demolished as soon as Seattle got around to officially deciding what to do with its waterfront. They drank in the glorious view: Puget Sound to the left, today calm and grey, with the Olympic Mountains visible beneath a high bank of clouds; and downtown Seattle’s eclectic architecture to the right. With her eyes, Cat followed the dark spine of the Columbia Tower up to the top and then looked for the Space Needle to appear around a bend. It was the iconic landmark’s fiftieth anniversary, so they’d painted the bottom orange again to match how it looked when built.

Granny Grace’s old Victorian house sat at the top of Queen Anne Hill, with an incredible view of the Space Needle and the Seattle skyline and impressive sweeps of Elliott Bay. Not terribly large, it wasn’t a mansion, and though it had three floors plus an attic, it was actually quite narrow, with smallish rooms, some of which hadn’t been outfitted with closets. Granny Grace said that was because the tax codes at the time of construction counted a bedroom as anything with a closet, and they assessed taxes based on the number of bedrooms. The builder had simply left out the closets.

Cat drank in the beveled glass front door, the grand foyer with its old gas chandelier, and the gleaming stairway banister leading to the second floor. It smelled as it always did, a bit musty but clean, the scent of lemons mingling with incense and sage.

Cat unpacked and settled into her room, the Grand Green Griffin. Every room in Granny Grace’s house had been decorated in some sort of theme. The kitchen Granny Grace referred to as the Terra Cotta Cocina, based on the Cuban kitchens she remembered from her days in Miami. The bathroom that Cat favored was called the Tempting Turquoise Tub, and it really was both tempting and turquoise. The Grand Green Griffin wasn’t grand in size, but being on the first floor, it had tall ceilings, and it was outfitted in shades of green ranging from kelly to sea foam and featured a griffin carved prominently into the fireplace mantel. Many of the bedrooms had fireplaces, as wood fires were the primary source of indoor heat when the house was built in 1883. Here and there throughout the house were paintings done by Cat’s Great-Uncle Mick, who channeled his dreamslipping ability into art. They were vibrant works, the paint thickly applied, like frosting on a cupcake. When Cat was younger, she’d test the paint to make sure it was hard, expecting her finger to come away globbed with it.

Just as Cat finished putting away her things, Granny Grace appeared in the doorway in spandex yoga clothes, which showed off her rather well-muscled arms and the faint hint of ab muscles beneath a slight layer of what she unselfconsciously referred to as “old-age padding.”

She invited Cat to join her, and once Cat changed clothes, the two of them moved to the Yoga Yolk. Cat had practiced yoga with her grandmother during past summer stays in Seattle but had never pursued it as a regular exercise. But now that she’d moved there for good and was entering into formal training with her grandmother, yoga was part of the deal, along with meditation, breath work...basically, whatever Granny Grace deemed necessary.

Cat followed her grandmother in a series of sun salutations: downward dog, a lunge forward with one leg, and a standing salute to the sun. Then Granny Grace moved into crow pose, crouching forward till her knees touched her upper arms and then lifting her legs so her whole body was balanced on her arms. Cat couldn’t do that pose yet, so she sat in a wide-legged squat, watching her grandmother with admiration. Afterward, they sat in the turret window of the pale-yellow-and-white room, sipping tea and sharing fruit. As the sun had set, Granny Grace lit a few candles, preferring them to electric lights.

“So tell me about your dreamslipping,” her grandmother prompted.

“I had a dream on the plane,” Cat said. “I think it was a little girl’s dream.” She described to Granny Grace how the devil with his pitchfork said he couldn’t let someone named Ruthie get away. Granny Grace listened intently, sitting cross-legged in her chair, a delicate yellow teacup balanced in one hand. Cat felt the heat of frustration return to her face. “I lost them at Sea-Tac,” she said.

“Did you find out who they are, or get some way to trace them?” her grandmother asked.

Cat blushed. “No. Should I have? I mean, the dream—it’s not proof of anything.”

Granny set her cup down. “Dreams never are, Cat. But if you’re going to be a PI, you need to start getting details.”

Cat silently accepted her grandmother’s instruction, and Granny Grace continued. “You could interpret the dream many ways, it’s true. It could simply be a young girl’s way of puzzling out sexual curiosities. Some kids begin touching themselves at an early age, you know. It’s totally natural. Maybe she has a brother and started to notice—”

“There’s no brother,” said Cat. “I think it’s just her and her mother. They traveled alone. I have this feeling they’re all alone in the world.”

“Well, that could be your intuition, or your imagination. You’re fairly imaginative, you know. As I was saying, she could be puzzling out her first sexual awareness, and maybe her mother is devout. Maybe the devil is a symbol from Christianity that has to do with the shame she associates with her body.”

“That’s what I’d expect you to say.”

Granny Grace smiled. “But what if...” She paused. “What if that’s not it? What if someone hurt her, and this is a post-traumatic stress disorder dream?”

Cat sat in silence, toying with her cup. “We’ll never know,” she said.

“We’ll never know,” echoed her grandmother.

“I do remember the little girl’s name,” Cat said, brightening. “I saw it on her suitcase. It’s Ruth.”

“Good. To get the rest, you could have easily taken advantage of the setting. You were in an airport. Everyone’s got identification close at hand. I bet the mother had her ID tucked just inside her carry-on.”

“You’re right, Gran,” Cat said, remembering something Granny Grace told her long ago. “’Take every dream seriously.’”

“That’s it, Cat.” Granny Grace beamed at her, her lips still perfectly painted in pearly pink.

Her grandmother had finally framed the copy of Vanity Fair with herself on the cover, Cat noticed. It was hanging there in the Yoga Yolk, its silver frame glinting in the candlelight. In it, Granny Grace was wearing a white bathing suit and sitting on an enormous beach ball. The prop had been her idea. “It was my photo shoot, and I wanted to have a ball,” she told Cat. Granny Grace was a tall Mae West type, not thin like the waifs who appear regularly on the covers now. But that was 1957, when models were curvier. Standards of beauty had certainly changed.

Cat gestured toward the image. “I’m glad to see you decided to hang that cover,” she said, smiling. “I’ve always admired it. Sometimes I wish I took after you in looks—instead of this dreamslipping curse we share.”

Cat had meant this as a joke, but as soon as she said it, she realized it was something her grandmother wouldn’t like.

Granny Grace put her teacup down. “Cat McCormick,” she said, “don’t ever call our gift a curse.”

Cat bowed her head. “Sorry.”

Granny Grace gave a sigh, long and drawn out. “I wasn’t really a model, you know,” she said.

Cat looked up in surprise. It was a long-standing family story that her grandmother had once been a model.

It was a ruse, Cat. I was undercover…” She paused, smiling. “But I ended up on the cover. Ha!”

“You never told me that! I don’t even think Mom knows.”

“There’s a lot your mother doesn’t know,” Granny Grace said. “Or understand, even if she does know.”

Cat let that one linger in the air without comment. To put it kindly, her mother and grandmother did not always get along. The dreamslipping gift had skipped a generation, and so had the adventurous temperament. Cat’s mother, Mercy, was as conservative as Granny Grace was liberal. And she hadn’t been too happy about Cat’s choice to move to Seattle and take over Granny Grace’s PI business. She’d called the whole scheme a “fantasy.” Cat and her mother had done nothing but fight about it up till the moment Cat left for Seattle.

“Tell me about the modeling case,” Cat prompted, pointedly changing the subject.

“Thurston was the top modeling agency in the country at the time,” Granny Grace explained. “It was an embezzling case, and the police leads had all run dry. One of Thurston’s accountants discovered that money had been taken out of the firm and that it had been going on for a long time. But they didn’t know how or by whom.”

“Were you able to use your dreamslipping to solve the case?” Cat asked. This was the crux of her apprenticeship with Granny Grace, to learn not just how to focus and control her dreamslipping ability, but how to use it in her work as a PI. She’d need to learn to do this well if she were going to take over her grandmother’s agency.

“Yes,” her grandmother answered. “But not till I went with the other models on location to shoot a swimsuit series in the Florida Keys. We were all in a hotel together—Largo Lodge, I think it was called. And one of the models had a stress dream. She obviously felt guilty about what they’d done.”

“’They’?” Cat asked. “You mean a group of models were embezzling?”

“Yep,” said Granny Grace. “It was actually not that hard to track down the evidence, once you knew where to look. But the police hadn’t looked. They assumed models weren’t bright enough for white-collar crime.”

Cat smiled. “Are you sure you’re ready to retire?” Granny Grace had been trying to do so for only the past twenty years but kept getting drawn back into one case or another.

“Of course,” she said. “After I teach you everything I know.”

Cat felt lucky to have Granny Grace’s help. Not only was her grandmother going to train her in PI techniques and dreamslipping skills, but she had generously offered to let Cat live with her for free as well. Back in St. Louis, Cat had tried unsuccessfully to find a job. With her degree in criminal justice, she thought she had a shot at getting onto a police force, but all of them were cutting back, and none were hiring. Granny Grace’s offer had been a godsend.

“I can’t thank you enough, Gran,” she said.

“Oh, you can thank me by carrying on my torch. Who else is going to keep the agency going? Over the years, I’ve had many assistants, Cat, but none of them have had your gift.”

Before they turned in for the night, Granny Grace put her hands on Cat’s shoulders. “You’re going to do well, Cat,” she said. “I always knew this was your calling.”

Despite the soft, familiar feel of her bed in the Grand Green Griffin, Cat struggled to fall asleep, doubt creeping up on her. What if her mother was right? Maybe “fantasy” was the most accurate word to describe what she was trying to do here. People said Granny Grace was a legend, but no one had ever called Cat anything like that. Cat was the type who tended to blend into the background. Her grandmother left awfully big shoes to fill—and designer ones, at that.

Chapter Two


Cat was sitting in full lotus, with both legs crossed, a foot resting on top of either thigh. It was a position she had never been able to do; she knew right away she was dreamslipping in her grandmother’s dream. All around her on the floor were bills Granny Grace couldn’t pay: the heating bill, another in an exorbitant amount for her cell phone, a medical bill, and others, along with receipts for the money she continued to give to charity. But Cat could feel that she shared her grandmother’s thoughts and attitudes in the dream, as if her and her grandmother’s minds were fused, so despite the bills, she felt at peace. In front of her was a Buddha statue, and in his palm were coins. He winked and said, “Bless the bills, my Grace. Bless them.”

Then the paper bills on the ground around her morphed into hundreds of butterflies—orange and black monarchs and viceroys, pale yellow swallowtails, iridescent blue sulphurs, and delicate cabbage whites. They flew up and covered the Buddha statue, where they sat flexing their wings in the sun. She watched them there, a feeling of peace flooding through her. Then the butterflies rose into the air as if they were one being, circled around her for a time, and then flew off into a ray of sunlight.


Cat woke early, still on St. Louis time and worried about her grandmother’s financial situation, despite the odd feeling of peace the dream gave her. Was the dream accurate? Was Granny Grace having financial trouble? She tiptoed down the hall to her grandmother’s study. She knew she shouldn’t snoop, but the quiet in the house told her Granny Grace was still asleep, and she would have to do a bit of detective work on this one, as her grandmother wouldn’t tell her the truth even if she asked. Granny Grace had an overdeveloped sense of pride; she carried herself well and was never one to accept help but was always helping others. Cat certainly had no intention of sponging off her grandmother forever, but if she were having financial trouble, there was no way Cat was going to accept her help in getting the PI firm started, no matter what cryptic, New Agey messages Granny Grace got from the Buddha.

Cat was seated at a rolltop desk, absorbed in the saga of her grandmother’s financial life and didn’t hear the septuagenarian enter the room behind her.

“I thought you came here to train as a PI, not serve as my personal bookkeeper,” Granny Grace said.

Cat turned with a start. “Gran, why didn’t you tell me about this?” She held up the cell phone bill, which included calls all over the world, with a balance upwards of five hundred dollars, most of which were past due amounts carried over.

“My cell phone habits are none of your concern, granddaughter,” said Granny Grace, ripping the phone bill out of Cat’s hands. “Besides, I’m in negotiations with them right now to get that lowered. They’re going to fold it under a special ‘international friends and family’ plan.”

“Grandmother,” Cat said sternly. “You’re giving money away, and at the same time, your bills are piling up.” Cat pulled out the statement from her financial advisor. “And judging by this, your investment accounts took a huge hit.”

Granny Grace ripped that statement out of her hand, too. “This is none of your business, Cat. And you should know better than to use a dream this way. You’ve got a lot to learn.”

Cat took a step back, realizing how far over the line she had crossed. “You’re right,” she said. “I’m sorry. Let me make you breakfast, and we can calm down and talk.”

She toasted sourdough bread and put out preserves, butter, a bowl of fruit, and a pot of tea. Her hunger satiated and her grandmother cooled down and seated across from her, Cat had to ask, “What exactly does ‘SPOETS’ stand for? You gave them a couple hundred last year.”

“Specialist Pogoists of East Tacoma,” Granny Grace quipped.

“Grandmother,” Cat groaned. “Be serious.”

“Sound Patternists of Elementary Tea Services.”

Cat giggled, and Granny Grace smiled. “They’re a group of citizens devoted to the study of the largest earthworm in North America,” she said.

Cat stared at her. “Earthworm?”

“That’s right,” she replied. “It’s the Society for the Protection of Earthworm Triticales Somas.”

“Triticales somas?”

Yeah. T. somas. That’s the Latin name. I’ll have you know it’s several feet long and almost as wide. It lives entirely underground on the Washington Palouse.”

“I didn’t know you had a soft spot for earthworms.”

“Only this one. It’s special. Not to say the ones you use in your garden aren’t special as well, but this one is unique.”

“But Granny Grace, why didn’t you tell me you were having trouble?”

“I’m not. Weren’t you there, in the dream, Cat? I could feel your presence. So you know that bills are to be blessed.”

Cat wouldn’t be put off so easily. She pressed her grandmother further. “But why do you give so much away when you’re not in a position to do that? You gave another small amount to a group that studies a rare type of moss that only grows on the eastern side of the Olympic Mountains. And the Dykes with Bikes? Do they really need your help? I think there’s even a Bisexual Basket-Weaving Bar Mitzvah group in the mix.”

“Oh, I only wish. If there’s one thing a bar mitzvah could use, it’s more bisexuals weaving baskets.” Granny Grace crossed her arms and leaned forward on the table. “Look, Cat. I’m seventy-seven years old. This karmic approach to money has held me in good stead for many years. You get back what you put out in life. It works. You wait and see.”

“Okay, but listen,” Cat said. “You told me I could stay here for free and that I wouldn’t have to work while I trained for the PI exam. But I don’t think that’s practical. I can’t do that. I’m going to get a job.”

“You’ll be putting everything off that way,” Granny Grace countered.

“There’s no way I can let you support me,” Cat said. “I’ll keep training with you and working toward my goal, but I’m going to pay my own way.” She nodded her head affirmatively, as if to seal the deal.

“Well, if you insist...” her grandmother replied.

“I insist,” Cat said.

There was a long silence while they sipped their tea before Granny Grace changed the subject in a tone that meant she was resuming Cat’s training there and then.

“You broke the first rule of dreamslipping this morning,” she said. “Don’t ever use the information gleaned from a dream to invade the privacy of someone you love.”

“But isn’t dreamslipping by its very nature already an invasion of privacy?”

“Yes, it is,” Granny Grace said, a shadow of sadness flickering across her face. “Why do you think I live alone? That’s why you can’t ever use what you learn like that again. I know you were doing it with concern in your heart, but you crossed a line.”

“I’m sorry,” Cat said.

Granny Grace reached over and squeezed her chin. “Don’t be sorry, Cat. Just remember the rule.”

“I will.”

“Good. By the way, don’t chide yourself for invading the privacy of your dreamers. That’s a waste of time. This thing is involuntary—it’s not like you can turn it off. Believe me, I’ve tried. That’s why I call it dreamslipping. We can’t help slipping into other people’s dreams.”

Cat sighed, feeling pressure inside her chest release. “Thank you for telling me that,” she said.

“Our first appointment today is with a meditation guru,” said Granny Grace, clapping her hands together. “Your training has begun.”

The guru—Guru Dave was his name—held meditation classes on the top floor of a record store, so in addition to the singing bowls he employed, there were the ever-present strains of whatever music the clerks downstairs happened to be playing. For Cat’s first class, it was polka music, which the hipsters must have been playing ironically. So when the guru asked her to empty her mind of everything and to cultivate nothingness, she couldn’t help but picture a bunch of men in lederhosen and women dressed as Heidi hefting huge beer steins into the air.

When Guru Dave spoke, he drew out his syllables so that it took him twice as long as everyone else to say the same thing, but the effect on the listener was trancelike. “Let goooooooo of attaaaaaaaachment,” he intoned. “Reeeeeleeeeease your eeeeeeegooooo.”

The only thing Cat felt herself let go of was the contraction in her lower abs, the “root lock,” as Guru Dave called it, which she was supposed to hold, it seemed, for an eternity.

At the end of class, which consisted of sitting cross-legged (Granny Grace was in full lotus, of course) till her lower back hurt and her brain was screaming insults at Guru Dave, he asked what insights she had to share with the rest of the class.

“The rhythm of life is in everything,” Cat said. “Even beer.”

Guru Dave thought this was profound, and Cat inadvertently became his star pupil. But nothing got past Granny Grace. After class, she teased Cat. “You’ve been to one too many Oktoberfests.”

“I could use a little bit of the rhythm of life after that class,” Cat said. “This tea isn’t quite cutting it.” They both burst out laughing.

That first couple of weeks in Seattle were a whirlwind for Cat. She accompanied Granny Grace to more meditation classes, and while nothing broke through her skepticism about them, she did find herself enjoying both the time to sit and think, as well as the strains of music from the store downstairs, which ran the gamut from classic rock to folk to R & B. They practiced yoga twice daily—an energetic round in the morning at a studio near the house and a slower style called yin that Granny Grace led in the Yoga Yolk each evening to wind down.

Her grandmother also took her shopping, and over protests that they didn’t have the money, she helped Cat create a wardrobe “more befitting a PI.” Granny Grace had a knack for how to find deals at consignment shops, cobbling together a selection of well-made pieces with less expensive accessories, so that the overall look was sophisticated and fun.

There were more direct lessons in dreamslipping as well, but Granny Grace took her time. Instead of showing Cat how to do “fancy tricks,” as Granny Grace called them, they were taking an inventory of Cat’s dream life up till now, which for the most part meant excavating through some awkward revelations Cat had had about her various boyfriends and how the dreamslipping had interfered with her ability to have what she called “normal” relationships with them. For example, she’d dated an emotionally unavailable soccer player for far too long, mainly because he wasn’t an active dreamer, and there were no issues to confront. Prior to that, she’d dated a psych student whose own dreams bordered on disturbing, and he was only too willing to spend hours analyzing them, to the point where Cat felt she should be charging him for her therapy services.

“You can use the information in dreams to solve a mystery or catch a crook,” Granny Grace said, “but healing someone like that—that’s a different kind of work.”

“Yeah, and I’m not cut out to be a psychotherapist,” said Cat.

“It’s really hard to know things about people that you can’t talk about with them,” said Granny Grace, as if she were thinking about her own past. But then she shook it off, changing the subject, and Cat didn’t want to press her.

Cat also immediately set about looking for a job, with dismal results. She tried to find something as close to her chosen profession as possible. She sent out more than fifty résumés, interviewed with six recruiters, and heard nothing in return. She couldn’t even get a part-time job at a supermarket, as the hiring manager there said she was overqualified and would be gone at the first opportunity. She sent résumés into the ether, and she imagined them evaporating into ones and zeroes in some large central database where bored clerks sat typing all day.

What finally got her a job were her grandmother’s connections.

Granny Grace took Cat to a fundraiser for one of her favorite charities, City Goats, which promoted goats as an alternative method for removing noxious weeds from vacant lots, as well as a more environmentally friendly way to trim back grass lawns. The fundraiser was at a hotel on the Seattle waterfront. Dale Chihuly glass sculptures tastefully referenced the shapes of goats everywhere you looked, from the horned chandelier above the ballroom to the bearded chin sinks in the bathroom.

Granny Grace was busy networking for future PI clients; Cat could hear the melody of her laughter across the room. Cat took a breather from the talk to stand at the window facing the Sound. She watched as two green-and-white ferries, their lights reflected on the water, passed each other on their ways to and from Bainbridge Island. She remembered her first ferry ride in Seattle, when she and her parents came to visit when she was six. She thought Puget Sound was a river like the Mississippi, but it startled her for being so blue. The Mississippi was muddy, like coffee with lots of cream.

“We hear you’re starting up Grace’s PI firm again,” said a voice that brought her back into the room. It was Simon Fletcher, one of her grandmother’s best friends. Following close behind him as usual was his partner, Dave Bander. The two were never separated; they seemed to function in every respect as a unit. They both wore immaculate tuxedoes that looked tailor-made for them as opposed to rented, and both men’s hair was close cropped and spiked slightly with gel.

But it’s not as if they were truly twins. Dave worked for a nonprofit with a creative, accepting environment, and, particularly at fancy events like these, he wore makeup—a little “manscara,” as he called it, and sometimes “guyliner.” Simon, an architect, had a Roman nose, stylish frames perched gallantly upon it, as if he’d personally designed the sweeping features of his own face.

“Hello, Simon!” Cat said, giving him a hug. “Word does get around. Yes, I’m hoping to take over Granny Grace’s firm. But she’s training me first.”

“I bet she is,” said Dave, who gave her a kiss on the cheek. “There’s no better teacher than Amazing Grace.”

“What did she ever teach you?” Cat asked.

“Didn’t your grandmother ever tell you how we met?” asked Simon.

“No, she didn’t.”

“Well, Dave here went to her for spiritual guidance. He was forty-two, unhappily married—to a woman, let me add—and working as a corporate lawyer for a chemical company. After a couple sessions with your grandmother, he filed for divorce and quit his job. I met him two years later at one of Grace’s legendary cocktail parties.”

“My grandmother, the matchmaker. And now you’re helping those in need,” Cat said, finishing the story. Dave was a lawyer who represented women pressing charges against abusive men.

Dave put his hand in Simon’s. “But most importantly, now I’m happy.” The two smiled at each other.

“I didn’t know Granny Grace counseled people,” she said.

“It was part of what she did as a volunteer for a meditation center,” Dave explained.

“Yes, that was back when Dave was dabbling in New Age spiritualism, trying to find himself,” said Simon, a teasing hint to his tone.

“Don’t mock it,” Dave said. “It led me to you, didn’t it?”

“True,” he admitted. Then, turning to Cat, he asked, “Has your grandmother taken you to her meditation class?”

Cat laughed. “You mean, have I sat in the presence of Guru Dave? Yes, I have. And my spirit has transcended the physical sphere and is entirely without ego attachment.”

Simon snickered. “Oh, God. It’s all over once the chanting begins.”

“At least I don’t have to shave my head,” Cat said. “Guru Dave thinks shaving hides what the divine has created.”

“I once had my chakras realigned,” Dave said. “My heart chakra slipped down to my butt.” The two men roared with laughter.

Now, how are you really doing?” Simon asked once the laughter died down.

“Honestly speaking,” Cat admitted, “I’m having the hardest time finding a job. I can’t even get work as a barista. Of course, it would help if I’d ever made something besides my mom’s drip coffee.”

“It’s rough out there these days,” said Simon, and Dave nodded in agreement.

“We’ve halted construction on one of our condo projects,” he continued. “The irony is, we have to pay to have a security guard on the premises.”

“Say,” Simon faced Dave, looking as if a lightbulb had popped up over his head. “Maybe she could be our booth guard.”

“Yeah, yeah,” agreed Dave. “The guy they’ve got out there now just sleeps all day. Cat would be great!”

They turned to her. “We know it’s beneath you, sweetie,” Dave ventured, “but think about it. We’d love to have you as our rent-a-cop!”

As they moved to greet some friends of theirs, Dave, the bigger jokester of the two, squeezed her arm. “Hey, Cat, did you see the satyr in the bathroom? Crazy what that Chihuly can do with glass, isn’t it?”

Simon pulled him away, making tsk-tsk noises. “Dave, I think that’s only in the men’s room.” Then turning to Cat, he winked and said, “We’ll call you about the guard gig.”

And that was that. Cat had her first full-time job. At first she thought it wouldn’t be so bad. She imagined she would be like the security guards at the hospital where she’d been a candy striper: sit in an office all day, maybe even watch a little TV, walk around the building every hour, piece of cake.

But when she showed up for her first day—make that first night, since she’d been given the highly despised 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift—she met Tony, the security company’s general manager. Tony only came up to Cat’s shoulder in height, and he had a row of broken, crooked, yellowing teeth. He smelled of cigarettes and mothballs.

“I’m here to guard the building,” Cat said by way of introduction. Conscious of favoritism, she didn’t mention Simon and Dave.

“You’re not guarding a building,” Tony barked at her.

“I’m not? Well then, what am I guarding?”

“A construction site.”

“Well, yes, I know they’re not done building it. Am I guarding the equipment?”

“No equipment,” he replied. “The contractors cleared that out already.”

Um, I don’t understand,” said Cat. “What is there?”

About three floors of an eight-story condom project,” Tony said. He leered at Cat to see if she had heard his mispronunciation.

She decided to ignore for a moment his attempt at wit, and the fact that this constituted sexual harassment. “I know that, but what am I protecting? Are they afraid the copper pipes will get stolen?” She knew copper was sometimes stolen out of abandoned buildings and sold for scrap.

“Yeah, that’s part of it, smart girl. The other part is liability. Someone gets hurt there, they sue your fairy friends.” He made a little flying Tinker Bell motion with his hands when he said the bit about Simon and Dave.

So Tony already knew her ties to the owners. This was not going in a good direction, and Cat hesitated to ask the next question—after all, this was Seattle, and it had been raining for the last three days.

“Is there a roof?”

“Only in part of the building, but that don’t matter none to you. You’ll stay outside the condo in the hut.”

Tony hadn’t lied about the booth, and she thought maybe his word for it, “hut,” was more accurate. Cat spent her first week sitting in a four-by-four hut with one tiny window. She had a radio that ran on batteries, her flashlight, and a clipboard of papers on which she was supposed to record her rounds. The bathroom was a port-a-john about ten feet away.

To make the job even duller, Tony had carefully instructed her about how this security thing worked: “You make your rounds every hour on the hour. You take ten minutes to make the rounds, no more, no less. The rest of the time you stay in the hut.”

“Won’t that make it kind of easy for someone to avoid security?”

Tony looked at her with contempt. “Listen, smart girl, here’s how it works. We contract with the client to provide security. In the contract we specify exactly what we will do, and we do exactly that. If a representative from the company comes by to check on you at five minutes after the hour, and you are in the hut, you are fired. On the other hand, if he comes by at fifteen minutes after the hour, and you are not in the hut, you are fired. Do I make myself clear?”

“So what if someone steals something at half past the hour?”

Tony had a surprising ability to convey disdain with his expressions. “It’s an empty building. And you’ll spot the thieves before they ever get around to ripping out any copper, trust me.”

The only bright spot for Cat was that Granny Grace let her drive Siddhartha to work, since by bus it would have meant three transfers and more than an hour-long trip to the Eastside. Granny Grace had taken Cat out in the old Mercedes for an instructional test run. The car handled beautifully; it was the smoothest ride she’d ever driven. On Cat’s first day of work, Granny Grace had been on hand to bid her bon voyage.

Cat sat in the driver’s seat while her grandmother assessed her from outside. “The only thing missing is your attitude,” she observed. “You look like someone borrowing a Mercedes for the day. You need to drive it like you own it.”

“Now how am I supposed to look like that when I’m wearing a rent-a-cop uniform?” Cat asked.

“Put these on,” Granny Grace ordered, handing her a pair of her Jackie O shades.

“Gran, it’s dark and rainy outside.”

“So what? Now stick your chin out.”

“There. That’s my granddaughter.” Granny Grace smiled her approval. “Don’t let the birds poop on Siddhartha,” she added, patting the car’s fender as Cat started it up. “He’s used to the garage.”

Chapter Three


Cat stood in front of the building she was supposed to be guarding. The bit of yard leading up to it had been stripped of vegetation, and weeks of Seattle rain had turned it to mud, her feet sinking a bit as she walked. A dusting of snow had fallen, making the entire area seem new and pleasant instead of derelict. It smelled fresh and clean, like the first snowfall of winter back home. She looked down at her feet and saw a pair of expensive leather boots instead of the cheap Velcro-fastened shoes the security agency issued her. She was in someone else’s dream.

She walked up to the condo building and paused. Something was definitely wrong here. The building as she knew it was only partially built—construction had halted abruptly at floor three, though there were eight in Simon’s architectural plans. But it looked now as if it had been finished. And now she could get inside. She wasn’t supposed to go inside—she was meant to stay in her guard hut out front unless making rounds outside the building—but the door was wide open.

The inside of the building consisted of grey concrete and looked vaguely utilitarian, like a school or hospital. She walked slowly, disoriented, nothing seeming familiar to her. Suddenly, down an empty corridor, she heard a faint squeaking, honking noise. It was a gosling, covered in mottled fuzz. It squeaked and honked frantically, as if afraid and missing its mother. Cat felt a rush of protective instinct then, as if she were its mother, and then a terrific fear mixed with anger hurled around inside her chest. She felt herself straining to push her feelings out through her body. She looked down at her arms. Sharp pinpricks of pain ran up and down the length of them as feathers burst through the fabric of her clothing. She felt her chin and nose grow and harden into a beak. She opened her mouth to let out a cry, and it came out as a loud hiss. Instinctively, she wrapped her wings around the gosling.

Then a man carrying a rifle and wearing a hunting cap appeared around the corner. Cat hoisted the gosling onto her back, ran outside, and spread her wings. Just as he reached the doorway to the building, she was airborne. He fired a few shots in the air, which zinged past her. Cat could see Canada in the distance, represented by a multicolored map, the border between it and the United States showing as a red line. That was her destination. She pumped her wings harder, the gosling on her back crying in squeaks muted by the wind. If only she could get there...


Cat woke up sweating. The clock in her guard booth showed 2:13 a.m.

She had always wondered why these digital clocks seemed only to come in one color, devilish red. She’d fallen asleep on the job, which could be a firing offense—if anyone ever bothered to check on her. Cat knew by the feel of things that she’d been dreamslipping.

There was a real problem with this particular dream, though. She knew from experience that she had to be physically close to the person dreaming. Maybe a couple hundred feet but not much more could separate her from the person whose dream she entered. Cat stepped outside the hut. The condo building was close enough, but it was vacant and locked up tight. The streets were lined with parked cars. If someone were asleep in one of them, they might be close enough. Sweeping her gaze down the row of cars, she saw nothing out of the ordinary, only what looked like upper-middle-class Seattleites’ vehicles, a few Volvos, lots of Priuses, all of them empty.

Cat walked around the booth and looked to the other side. Nothing but an empty space where the condo would have lovely landscaping, were it completed. Cat looked back at the incomplete condo—unlike in her dream, it was its proper three-story height. It was well within her range. Someone was sleeping nearby, and the most likely place was inside the structure.


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