IS THE COCKATOO A CLUE?
Many of you have asked me when the next Claudia Hershey mystery will be out. Well, I can’t answer that quite yet, but I can share the opening scene with you. Have a look, you wonderful book junkies:
One week. It was only supposed to be one week, and yet the week had leached into yet another day. Claudia stared at her neighbor’s cockatoo, a large white-bodied bird with a yellow crest and faint yellow cheeks. It was swaying back and forth on a stick inside its cage, doing a cross between a whistle and undecipherable, loud squawks. But the cage wasn’t inside her neighbor’s house. Instead it stood on a large, mahogany cabinet that previously held clusters of work stuff and oddball art sculptures that Claudia found interesting.
The bird, some 15 or 16 inches in length, was named Bandit and Claudia quickly learned why. On the occasions when she allowed it to fly freely around the house—which her neighbor Joy had insisted it must be allowed to do— it stole anything it fancied and could carry. Paperclips, coins from her dresser, her daughter Robin’s earrings and rings, a colorful flash drive . . . anything and everything. You’d find it later. Or not. And the bird was also indiscriminate about where it would crap. There were times Claudia wanted to pull out her .38 revolver and just shoot the thing.
Had Joy been truthful, she would have explained the intense involvement a cockatoo required, especially attention. The bird liked to play. It also enjoyed harassing Robin’s calico cat, which her daughter had named Boo.
So where the hell was Joy, anyway? Her last-minute call, made around the time Joy said she’d be home, was muffled and indistinct. Bad cell connections in Indian Run weren’t uncommon. The Central Florida community had grown slightly in population, but interests largely remained dependent on cattle ranches and farms with a variety of vegetables and citrus trees. Technology? Better than when Claudia joined the small police force nearly three years earlier, but not anywhere on a par with the glittery coastal areas of the state.
From her neighbor’s call, Claudia gleaned only that it would be another day before Joy would return. One more day in purgatory with that insufferable, time-consuming bird. That, and oh yes, a fairly hefty caseload, though thankfully without any homicides.
And then the phone rang. Claudia glanced at her watch. Nearly six-thirty. Still early evening. Claudia picked up and heard Chief Mac Suggs’ rumbling voice on the other end. So much for a relaxing Sunday.
“Hershey,” he said. “Believe we got a homicide. A body half in and half out of a canal feeding into the No-Name Pond. Responding officer thinks it’s a male, but he isn’t sure. The head and then some is under murky water and vines. I want you to take the lead, so put on your party dress and get on out there.” He gave her directions.
“I hear you, Chief, and I’m out the door in two minutes. Tell the officer not to touch anything, but to keep any gators out of the way.”
They hung up and Claudia glanced at the cockatoo, scribbled a note for her daughter telling her not to let the bird out of its cage, then put it on the kitchen table. All the while she prayed that the person in the water wasn’t a homicide victim, but merely a person dead by accident. She shook her head. Not likely.
Four minutes later she was on her way.
Now all I need is a title. For the interim, I’m merely referring to the novel as Claudia No. 4. Original, no? Meanwhile, please share any feedback with me. I know where the story is headed, but I don’t have the engine built yet. I’m open to anything.
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