right, waggled his fingers at me cheerfully, and disappeared into the bathroom.

The only bathroom on this floor. Chalk it up to lack of caffeine, but I was so irritated it took me a few seconds to realize that I had no idea who the heck the man in the bathrobe was.

Yet another visiting relative, obviously. But no one I recognized. I thought I knew all the relatives who’d invited themselves to stay at the house. I racked my brain to figure out which aunt or cousin might have brought a new husband or boyfriend along.

Meanwhile, I headed for the third floor bathroom. I reminded myself that this was a temporary inconvenience. First on our long list of remodeling projects was creating a real master bedroom suite with a private connecting bath. And we weren’t inviting any more houseguests until we’d solved the bathroom shortage.

Just then I heard the strains of Puccini’s “Un Bel Di Verdremo” wafting down from the third floor, which meant that Mrs. Fenniman, another visiting relative, had taken possession of the bathroom for her usual long and tuneful ablutions. I went downstairs instead.

I followed voices to the kitchen. Apparently someone else had let Dad in. He’d put on water for coffee and was sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor, sharing his doughnuts with my brother, Rob, and a petite middle-aged woman who looked vaguely familiar. Although it was hard to tell, because she was wearing a set of Groucho Marx glasses, complete with the fake nose and mustache.

“Morning,” I said.

The bathroom off the kitchen was, of course, occupied. But since it was only a half bath, turnover should be faster than upstairs. I stationed myself by the door.

“Morning, Meg,” Dad said, raising a cloud of powdered sugar as he waved at me. “You remember your mother’s Cousin Emma. From Wichita.”

“Kansas?” I asked.

Emma nodded, and raised her Groucho mask briefly so I could see her face. She wasn’t wet, so I deduced she’d come in with one of the family instead of ringing the bell.

“Mother said her relatives were coming from all over for the yard sale,” I said. “But Kansas?”

Whatever Emma started to say was drowned out by the loud thud and subsequent howl of agony from the bathroom.

Other Meg Langslow Mysteries by Donna Andrews

Crouching Buzzard, Leaping Loon

Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos

Murder with Puffins

Murder with Peacocks


Many thanks…

To Ruth Cavin, Dan Kotler, and the staff at St. Martin’s; and to Ellen Geiger, Anna Abreu, and the crew at Curtis Brown. I love the fact that these days you don’t even blink when I mention my proposed book titles.

To the friends who read and comment on whatever I come up with, usually on shorter-than-reasonable notice—Suzanne, Maria, Kathy, Dave, Paul, and the QBs. And to Dina and Rosemary for special help on this one.

To all the people who answered questions and shared anecdotes about the monkeys, parrots, and tigers they have known, with apologies for poking gentle fun at the creatures you love—and the hope that the resulting book makes caring for exotic animals sound as tough as it really is. Particular thanks to Ellen, Kevin, Shadow, Meredith, Pat (whose brother-in-law jogs with the tigers), the patient employees of several Washington-area pet stores, and the equally patient staffs of the D.C. Humane Society and the American Humane Association.

To the organizers and guests of the many fan conventions I’ve attended—the only people in the universe who know I’m not making this stuff up, just changing the names. With affection, from someone who would be out there wearing a costume herself if it weren’t for all these deadlines.

To the Teabuds, who are always ready with cyber chocolate and virtual champagne in the good times and purple power for the tough spots.

To my family, who patiently endure being mistaken for Meg’s family and rarely ever throw things at me anymore when I exclaim, “Ooh—do you mind if I use that?”

And most of all, thanks to the readers who make all this possible.


Copyright © 2004 by Donna Andrews.

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