Previously in

Midnight Louie’s

Lives and Times .. .

How sad that my singing voice is more scat than lyrics, for my personal theme song would have to be “There Is Nothing Like a Dame.”

I admit it. I am a shameless admirer of the female of the species. Any species. Of course not all females are dames. Some are little dolls, like my petite roommate, Miss Temple Barr.

The difference between dames and little dolls? Dames can take care of themselves, period. Little dolls can take care of themselves also, but they are not averse to letting the male of the species think that they have an occasional role in the Master Plan too.

That is why my MissTemple and I are perfect roomies. She tolerates my wandering ways. I make myself useful, looking after her without letting her know about it. Call me Muscle in Midnight Black. In our time, we have co-cracked a few cases too tough for the local fuzz of the human persuasion, law enforcement division. That does not always win either of us popularity contests, but we would rather be right than on the sidelines when something crooked is going down. We share a well-honed sense of justice and long, sharp fingernails.

So when I hear that a reality TV show is coming to Las Vegas to film, I figure that one way or another my lively little roommate, the petite and toothsome, will be spike-heel high in the planning and execution. She is, after all, a freelance public relations specialist, and Las Vegas is full of public relations of all stripes and legalities. In this case, though, I did not figure just how deeply she would be involved in murder most media.

I should introduce myself: Midnight Louie, Pl. I am not your usual gumshoe in that my feet do not wear shoes of any stripe, but shivs. I have certain attributes, such as being short, dark, and handsome … really short. That gets me overlooked and underestimated, which is what the savvy operative wants anyway. I am your perfect undercover guy. I also like to hunker down under the covers with my little doll. My adventures would fill a book, and in fact I have several out. My life is just one long TV miniseries in which I as hero extract my hapless human friends from fixes of their own making and literally nail crooks. After experiencing the dramatic turn of events recently, most of my human associates are pretty shell-shocked. Not even an ace feline PI may be able to solve their various predicaments in the areas of crime and punishment … and PR, as in Personal Relationships.

As a serial killer–finder in a multivolume mystery series (not to mention a primo mouthpiece), it behooves me to update my readers old and new on past crimes and present tensions.

None can deny that the Las Vegas crime scene is apretty busy place, and I have been treading these mean neon streets for seventeen books now. When I call myself an “alphacat,” some think I am merely asserting my natural male dominance, but no. I merely reference the fact that after debuting in Catnap and Pussyfoot, I commenced to a title sequence that is as sweet and simple as B to Z.

That is where I began my alphabet, with the B in Cat on a Blue Monday. From then on, the color word in the title is in alphabetical order up to the current volume, Cat in a Hot Pink Pursuit. (Yeow! Pink is not my usual macho color.) Since I associate with a multifarious and nefarious crew of human beings, and since Las Vegas is littered with guidebooks as well as bodies, I wish to provide a rundown of the local landmarks on my particular map of the world. A cast of characters, so to speak: To wit, my lovely roommate and high-heel devotee, Miss Nancy Drew on killer spikes, freelance PR ace MISS TEMPLE BARR, who has reunited with her only love…

… the once missing-in-action magician MR. MAX KINSELLA, who has good reason for invisibility. After his cousin SEAN died in a bomb attack during a post-highschool jaunt to Ireland, he went into undercover counterterrorism work with his mentor, GANDOLPH THE GREAT, whose unsolved murder last Halloween while unmasking phony psychics at a séance is still on the books…

Meanwhile, Mr. Max is sought by another dame, Las Vegas homicide LIEUTENANT C. R. MOLINA, mother of preteen MARIAH .. .

… and the good friend of Miss Temple’s recent good friend MR. MATT DEVINE, a radio talk-show shrink and former Roman Catholic priest who came to Las Vegas to track down his abusive stepfather, now dead and buried. By whose hand, no one is quite sure.

Speaking of unhappy pasts, Lieutenant Carmen Regina Molina is not thrilled that her former flame MR. RAFI NADIR, the unsuspecting father of Mariah, is in Las Vegas taking on shady muscle jobs after blowing his career with the LAPD .. .

… or that Mr. Max Kinsella is aware of Rafi and his past relationship to hers truly. She had hoped to nail one man or the other as the Stripper Killer, but MissTemple prevented that by attracting the attention of the real perp.

In the meantime, Mr. Matt drew a stalker, the local girl that young Max and his cousin Sean boyishly competed for in that long-ago Ireland .. .

… one MISS KATHLEEN O’CONNOR, deservedly christened by MissTemple as Kitty the Cutter. Finding Mr. Max impossible to trace, she settled for harassing with tooth and claw the nearest innocent bystander, Mr. Matt Devine…

… who is still trying to recover from the crush he developed on MissTemple, his neighbor at the Circle Ritz condominiums, while Mr. Max was missing in action. He did that by not very boldly seeking new women, all of whom were in danger from said Kitty the Cutter.

In fact, on the advice of counsel, i.e., AMBROSIA, Mr. Matt’s talk-show producer, and none other than the aforesaid Lieutenant Molina, he tried to disarm Miss Kitty’s pathological interest in his sexual state by losing his virginity with a call girl least likely to be the object of K. the Cutter’s retaliation. Except that hours after their assignation at the Goliath Hotel, said call girl turned up deader than an ice-cold deck of Bicycle playing cards. But there are thirty-some million potential victims in this old town, if you include the constant come and go of tourists, and everything is up for grabs in Las Vegas24/7: guilt, innocence, money, power, love, loss, death, and significant others.

All this human sex and violence makes me glad I have a simpler social life, my prime goal being reunion with .. .

… THE DIVINE YVETTE, the stunning shaded silver Persian belonging to fading B-film star Miss Savannah Ashleigh and once my partner in some cat food commercials, and such a simple hope as trying to get along with my self-appointed daughter .. .

.. MISS MIDNIGHT LOUISE, who insinuated herself into my cases until I was forced to set up shop with her as Midnight Inc. Investigations, and who has also nosed herself into my long-running duel with .. .

… the evil Siamese assassin HYACINTH, first met as the onstage assistant to the mysterious lady magician …

… SHANGRI-LA, who made off with MissTemple’s semiengagement ring from Mr. Max during an onstage trick and has not been seen since, except in sinister glimpses . .

… just like THE SYNTH, an ancient cabal of magicians that may deserve contemporary credit for the ambiguous death of Mr. Max’s mentor in magic, Gandolph the Great.

Well, there you have it, the usual human stew, all mixed up and at odds with one another and within themselves. Obviously, it is up to me to solve all their mysteries and nail a few crooks along the way. Like Las Vegas, the City That Never Sleeps, Midnight Louie, private eye, also has a sobriquet: the Kitty That Never Sleeps.

With this crew, who could?

Chapter 1

Hello Kitty

Homicide Lieutenant C. R. Molina’s desk hosted two very different images.

One was a glossy 11-by-17-inch poster of a Barbiedoll-cute teen girl tricked out in industrial-strength amounts of hot pink.

The other was the same image, cut into jagged pieces that had been grafted onto photographed body parts of an actual Barbie doll.

The phrase “Teen Idol” on the first poster had morphed into “Twisted Sister,” with a welter of blood-red spatters, on the second one.

“Sick,” Molina said, unnecessarily.

They all stood gazing down on the twisted twin posters, neither of which was exactly wholesome. One was merely Extreme Fashion. The other had been refashioned into something freakishly violent.

“Being the mother of a newly teenaged daughter, finding this stuff strewn around a shopping mall parking lot makes me shudder,” Molina said. “The slashed poster reminds me that some things are scarier than adolescent hormones.”

“Mariah’s thirteen already?” Detective Morrie Alch asked, surprised. He was comfortably into his mid-fifties and his lone daughter was grown, gone, and a mother herself.

How Molina envied him.

“Just turned,” she said. “A month ago. I’m already considering a barbed-wire perimeter around the house. This is so sick.”

“The Teen Idol concept,” Detective Merry Su asked, “or the threatening poster?”

“Both.” Molina shook her head. “So tell me about this Teen Idol thing.”

“Reality TV hits Las Vegas,” Su said. A petite, twenty-something, second-generation Asian American, Su looked ready to compete for a teen title herself.

“Can’t prove it by me,” Molina answered. “We’ve been hosting reality TV since the New Millennium Hotel went up five years ago.”

“It’s a quest to name a ‘Tween and Teen Queen,” Alch said.

“Two age groups, thirteen to fifteen and sixteen to nineteen,” Su said.

“Got it. Teens-in-training and the full-media deal. Is this a singing competition?”

Being a closet vocalist herself, Molina had actually caught a ...