Qwill's on top of the world when he rents a house on Big Potato Mountain. The owner, J.J. Hawkinfield, brought real estate development to the once-peaceful Potatoes. But Hawkinfield paid a steep price for his enterprise: He was pushed off a cliff by an angry mountain dweller. Qwilleran, however, suspects the man is innocent--and Koko's antics have him convinced something's wrong. He may be making a mountain out of a molehill...but he's determined to find the truth. Even if it means jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire!
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December 30, 2002
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Excerpt from The Cat Who Moved a Mountain by Lilian Jackson Braun
A MAN OF middle age, with a large, drooping moustache and brooding eyes, hunched over the steering wheel and gripped the rim anxiously as he maneuvered his car up a mountain road that was narrow, unpaved, and tortuous. Unaccustomed to mountain driving, he found it a bloodcurdling ordeal. On one side of the road the mountain rose in a solid wall of craggy rock; on the other side it dropped off sharply without benefit of guardrail, and it was narrowed further by fallen rocks at the base of the cliff.
The driver kept to the middle of the road and clenched his teeth at each hairpin turn, pondering his options if another vehicle were to come hurtling downhill around a blind curve. A head-on collision A crash into the cliff A plunge into the gorge To aggravate the tension there were two passengers in the backseat who protested as only Siamese cats can do.
"It was late in the day, and the gas gauge registered less than a quarter full. For almost two hours Jim Qwilleran had been driving on mountain passes, snaking around triple S-curves, blowing the horn at every hairpin turn, making the wrong decision at every fork in the road. There were no directional signs, no habitations where he might inquire, no motorists to flag down for help, no turn-outs where he could pull over in an effort to get his bearings and collect his wits.
The situation had all the elements of a nightmare, although Qwilleran was totally awake. So were the two in the backseat, bumping about in their carrier as the car swerved and jolted, all the while airing their protests in ear-splitting howls and nerve-wracking shrieks.
"Shut up," he bellowed at them, a reprimand that only increased the volume of the clamor. "We're lost! Where are we Why did we ever come to this damned mountain "
"It was a good question, and one day soon he would know the answer. Meanwhile he was frantically pursuing a nonstop journey to nowhere.
"Two weeks before, Qwilleran had experienced a sudden urge to go to the mountains. He was living in Moose County, a comfortably flat fragment of terrain in the northernmost reaches of the lower Forty-eight, more than a thousand miles away from anything higher than a hill. The inspiration came to him while celebrating a significant event in his life. After five years of legal formalities that had required him to live in Moose County, he had officially inherited the Klingenschoen fortune, and he was now a certified billionaire with holdings reaching from New Jersey to Nevada.
"During his five years in Pickax City, the county seat, he had won over the natives with his genial disposition and his streak of generosity that constantly benefited the community. Strangers passing him on the street went home and told their families that Mr. Q had said good morning and raised his hand in a friendly salute. Men enjoyed his company in the coffee houses. Women went into raptures over his flamboyant moustache and shivered at the doleful expression in his hooded eyes, wondering what past experience had saddened them.
"To celebrate his inheritance, more than two hundred friends and admirers gathered in the ballroom of the seedy old hostelry that called itself the "New" Pickax Hotel. Qwilleran circulated among them amiably, jingling ice cubes in a glass of ginger ale, accepting congratulations, and making frequent trips to a buffet laden with the hotel's idea of party food. He was an outstanding figure, standing out from the crowd: six-feet-two and well-built, with a good head of hair graying at the temples, and a luxuriant pepper-and-salt moustache that seemed to have a life of its own.