The colorful Casablance apartment building is in danger of demolition--but not if Jim Qwilleran can help it. He's determined to restore the building to its original grandeur. So he moves in with Koko and Yum Yum--and discovers that the Casablanca is steeped in history...and mystery.
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January 01, 2003
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Excerpt from The Cat Who Lived High by Lilian Jackson Braun
THE NEWS THAT reached Pickax City early on that cold November morning sent a deathly chill through the small northern community. The Pickax police chief, Andrew Brodie, was the first to hear about the car crash. It had occurred four hundred miles to the south, in the perilous urban area that locals called Down Below. The metropolitan police appealed to Brodie for assistance in locating the next of kin.
The victim, they said, had been driving through the heart of the city on a four-lane freeway when the occupants of a passing car, according to witnesses, fired shots at him, causing him to lose control of his vehicle, which crashed into a concrete abutment and burned. The driver's body was consumed by the flames, but through the license plates the registration had been traced to James Qwilleran, fifty-two, of Pickax City.
Brodie smashed his leathery fist down on the desk, and his face contorted in grief and anger. "I warned him! I warned him!" he shouted.
Qwilleran had no living relatives; a phone call to his attorney confirmed that fact. His family consisted of two Siamese cats, but his extended family included the entire population of Moose County. The genial personality and quirky philosophy of the retired journalist endeared "Mr. Q" to everyone. The column he wrote for the local newspaper had won him a host of admirers. His luxuriant moustache and drooping eyelids and graying temples were considered sexually attractive by women of all ages. And the fact that he was the richest bachelor in three counties and an unbridled philanthropist made him a civic treasure.
Brodie immediately called Arch Riker, Qwilleran's lifelong friend and current publisher of the Moose County newspaper. "Dammit! I warned him about that jungle!" the chief shouted into the phone. "He's been living up here for three years, and he forgot that life Down Below is like Russian roulette!"
Shocked and searching for something to say, Riker mumbled soberly, "Qwill knew all about that. Before moving up here he lived in cities for fifty years. He and I grew up in Chicago."
"Things have changed since then," Brodie snapped. "God! Do you know what this means "
The fact was that Qwilleran had inherited vast wealth from the Klingenschoen estate -- on one condition: He must live in Moose County for five years. Otherwise, the Klingenschoen millions -- or billions -- would go to the alternate heirs out of state.
Riker listened glumly to Brodie's tirade and then phoned Polly Duncan, the woman in Qwilleran's life, who was prostrated by the news. He himself made immediate plans to fly down to the city. By the time the publisher had notified his own news desk and the local radio station, the telephone lines were spluttering with the bad tidings, and Moose County was caught up in a frenzy of horror and grief. Thousands would miss Qwilleran's column on page two of the newspaper.
Hundreds would miss the sight of Mr. Q riding his bicycle on country roads and walking about downtown Pickax with a long stride and a sober expression, answering their greetings with a courteous salute. And everyone realized the community would now lose scholarships, grants, and interest-free loans. Why, they asked each other, had he been so rash as to venture Down Below Only one person thought to worry about the Siamese. His part-time secretary, Lori Bamba, cried, "What will happen to Koko and Yum Yum "