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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Excerpt from THE MONEY BIRD by Sheila Webster Boneham

In the following excerpt from The Money Bird, Animals in Focus mystery #2 from Midnight Ink (2013), animal photographer Janet MacPhail and her beau, anthropologist Tom Saunders are trying to have a quiet Sunday morning with their dogs, Jay and Drake, and Janet's cat, Leo. Good luck with that! Strange happenings at Twisted Lake have propelled them on a quest to identify an out-of-place bird, and they are about to get some help. 
Read an excerpt from the best-selling & award-winning first book in the series,  Drop Dead on Recall, HERE, and watch for Book #3, Catwalk, fall 2014 - excerpt coming to this blog  September 17. In the meantime, read about the making of the Catwalk book cover HERE.  ~ Sheila                             

Chapter 31
We had planned to sleep in Sunday morning for once, but a bright flash followed by a roar that sounded like a mountain being dragged across the roof landed two dogs on us when there was just enough light to see shapes in the room. One of those shapes was Leo. He was hunkered down on Tom’s dresser.
“Drake, you big weenie,” said Tom, but he wrapped his trembling dog in a securing arm and pulled him in close. He lay his chin on top of Drake’s head and grinned at me. “He doesn’t even flinch when we’re outdoors in a storm. I think it’s an excuse.”
Jay wasn’t bothered by storms, but he knew an opportunity when he saw one. He had squeezed in between Drake and me and rolled against me into belly-rub position. Of course, I obliged.
An hour later the storm had passed and Tom’s backyard radiated summer scents of wet grass, mulch, and a chorus of flowers. I breathed it all in so deeply that I could almost taste the roses, lavender, flowering tobacco, sweet alyssum, and more that fringed the back of Tom’s house. Jay and Drake were getting noses full, too, although they were more interested in following some sort of track across the grass and under the fence.
A flash of red in the air made me jerk my head around. The image of a scarlet parrot flashed through my mind, but was quickly replaced by the male cardinal that had landed on a feeder in the neighbor’s yard.
“Open the door, please, ma’am.” Tom was inside the sliding screen holding a tray with two steaming mugs and two plates bearing whatever he’d been heating in the oven. More inspiring morning scents hit me when I liberated him. Coffee, cinnamon, and yeast.
“You baked cinnamon rolls?”
“Sure,” he said, pulling a kitchen towel out of his pocket to dry the table and chairs. “Was up at four mixing and kneading and working my fingers to the bo....”
“Frozen, right?”
He held my chair out for me and said, “Refrigerated.”
When we had finished eating, Tom took the dishes in and brought more coffee and I cranked up my laptop. We had already emailed my photos of the three parrots – Persephone Swann’s lovely Ava, the dead bird on the island, and the live one – to George Crane, the ornithologist Tom had contacted. We were both eager to see what he had to say, but first I checked my own emails for anything critical, then passed my computer to Tom. As he signed into his account, he said, “It’s too soon to expect anything, you know. His auto reply said he was gone for the weekend.”
Jay and Drake raced onto the deck, a floppy flyer in one mouth and a tennis ball in the other. Dogs and toys were all sopping wet, mucky, and very close. “Not now, guys! Off! Off!” I waved them away, curling my legs up into my chair to keep from getting slimed. They looked so disappointed in me that I almost caved in, but the sound of Tom’s phone saved me from having to do a load of laundry before I could leave.
Tom got up to answer the phone and handed me my laptop. “You could leave more clothes here, you know, in case of wet dog attacks,” he said, touching my shoulder and grinning.
“Stop that,” I said.
“Stop what?”
“Reading my mind.”
He was laughing when he shut the door behind him.
I looked at the dogs. They were still on the deck, Jay lying in sphinx position with the floppy on his paws, Drake sitting, his lip bubbled out where it was caught between tennis ball and tooth. “He does, you know. He reads our minds,” I said. They wagged their tails in agreement.
The door slid open behind me and Tom said, “Janet, come here. Bring your computer.” When I turned I saw that he was gesturing for me to hurry, and seemed very excited. “Hang on,” he told the caller, and pressed the mouthpiece against his shoulder. “Set it up and open my email again. Here.” He re-entered his password and opened his account, then spoke in the phone again. “Okay, downloading now.”

There was an email with photos attached, and he opened the first one. It could have been a portrait of Ava, I thought, although I’d have to see the photos side by side to be sure. The lovely creature was perched on the shoulder of a grinning, bare-chested child with the bowl haircut characteristic of Amazonian Indians. Tom opened the second photo, then the third. Two more parrots, or possibly the same bird. In one shot, the crimson bird was perched on a branch, and the photo was obviously taken at considerable distance from beneath, meaning it was a very tall tree. The third photo showed a parrot in flight, and aside from the forest in the background, it might have been the bird flying around Heron Acres. But one small red parrot in flight looks pretty much like another to me.
“What are we looking at?” asked Tom.
The voice on the other end of the line was speaking fast and sounded agitated. I couldn’t make anything out, but Tom’s forehead had puckered up in his worried-and-potentially-angry look. I’d have to settle for the retelling, I guessed, so I went into Tom’s office and turned on his printer. I’d loaded the printer software onto my computer a week or so earlier when I needed to print something. I found some photo paper on a shelf, so once I slipped it into the feed tray we were all set. I went back to the computer and sent all three photos to print, then opened my own parrot photos and printed them. At least we could compare them side by side.
“No, really, plenty of room,” Tom was saying into the phone. “In fact, you can have the house to yourself if you like.” He winked at me. “Great. See you Tuesday.” He paused, then said, “Right. Nothing until then. Thanks a lot.”
I retrieved the photos and spread them on the counter.
“Wow,” said Tom, frowning and shaking his head.
“He’s coming here?” I was leaning over the pair of Avas. “Do you have a magnifying glass handy?”
“He wants to see the birds for himself, but he’s pretty sure....” He disappeared down the hall and came back with the magnifier.
“Sure of what?”
“Two endangered species,” he said.
I raised my head and gaped at him. “What?”

“That’s what he thinks. This one,” he said, pointing at the photo of the bird that looked like Ava, or whatever his name was now, “is an endangered Amazonian parrot. He’s emailing us the names, but wants us to keep it to ourselves until he gets here. And these,” he pulled the other photos toward himself, “are, he thinks, a critically endangered African species.”

Sheila and her BFF Lily (UCDX Diamonds
Perennial Waterlily AKC CD, RN, TD, CGC;
Sheila Webster Boneham writes fiction and nonfiction, much of it focused on animals, nature, and travel. Her Animals in Focus mystery series features animal photographer Janet MacPhail, her Australian Shepherd Jay, and her tabby cat Leo. Their lives and adventures are based largely on the author's long experience as a competitor in canine and equine sports, rescuer, shelter volunteer, breeder, therapy volunteer, author of dog & cat books, and life-long animal lover. 

The Money Bird is the second book in the series; #3, Catwalk, will be out this fall. Sheila's Books are available in print, ebook, and Audible formats from your local bookseller and online from amazon.com and other vendors. For personally autographed copies click Here 

Six of Sheila’s non-fiction books have been named best in their categories in the Dog Writers Association of America (DWAA) and the Cat Writers Association (CWA) annual competitions, and two of her other books and a short story have been finalists in the annual competitions. Her book Rescue Matters! How to Find, Foster, and Rehome Companion Animals (Alpine, 2009) has been called a "must read" for anyone involved with animal rescue.

Although best known for her mysteries and her popular nonfiction about dogs and cats, Sheila also writes literary fiction, nonfiction, and  poetry. Her essay "A Question of Corvids" won the 2014 Prime Number Magazine Award for Creative Nonfiction, and her work has appeared in a number of literary magazines. She is currently working on a series of essays about traveling the U.S. by train, a memoir about human-canine and daughter-mother connections, and a new novel. You can learn more about her writing and teaching at www.sheilaboneham.com. Sheila holds a PhD in folklore from Indiana University, and an MFA in creative writing from the Stonecoast Program/University of Southern Maine.

Sheila runs the Writers & Other Animals blog (you are here!), and the companion Facebook Group. Join us!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful excerpt. Money Bird was another great read, and I'm waiting for #3 Catwalk...