Megan Baldwin, RN, finds her sitting in her beat up Toyota. Woozy, wearing a tad too much Naples red lipstick, white
crocheted gloves, and a parrot on her shoulder, Veronica May looks like only an eccentric senior citizen.
Under murder rears its ugly head. Then Megan is drawn into a mystery that tests her investigative skills and turns out
to be DEADLIER THAN DEATH.
Along the way, Megan stumbles across another homicide, an older lover, a burned house, the mysterious Single Hearts Club,
the smart aleck eight-year-old daughter of a Medical Examiner's Investigator, and enough mayhem for a lifetime!
Read an excerpt:
I opened the door of my ten-year-old white Toyota and there she was.
Black sunglasses covered the upper
portion of her face. They were the kind worn after cataract surgery. I knew this because before I became an avid reader of
mystery novels and editor of my own health promotion money-losing newsletter, I was an R.N. in numerous hospital settings.
I also surmised her condition because a large percentage of the population of St. Petersurg is over sixty-five, and wear those
glasses. You can't fool a nurse. We're a very perceptive lot.
The woman sitting in the passenger seat of my car
smiled at me without opening her lips. The sun dappled across her face, making the red splotches on her nose and cheeks even
"Excuse me," I said, "but do I know you?"
A shiver ran through me then and that
almost convinced me she was a spy or somebody who was about to become very important to me. But I held my tongue for a minute,
mainly because I do have an overactive imagination and a wisecracking manner that has gotten me into several nasty encounters
with physicians and supervisors. So instead of saying anything else, I took another look at the passenger side of my car,
thinking that maybe I did know the woman.
A small green parrot sat on her hunched-over shoulder. The bird gave
me a glance that said, We were here first. The woman's smile broadened and her white-hair polyester wig of curls shook. "Am
I in the wrong car?" she asked in a voice that can only be descried as drugged.
"I think so." I slid into my
seat. The smell of lavender was unmistakable. Trying not to appear rude, I took a closer look at her. A black straw hat with
a big red rose dangling off the front roosted on her head. Just a tad too much Naples red lipstick covered her lips as well
as a generous portion above and below them. Her face caked into crevices around an overabundance of white powder.
was skinny, with a little bump on her back, and short legs that barely grazed the floor. The frock she wore was memorable
for the white orchids patterning the yellow and pal green of the fabric, and her hands for their covering of immaculate, hand-crocheted,
white gloves. A strange-looking woman, but I liked her immediately.
I looked back at her face. "Whose car were
you looking for?"
She didn't answer. Her lips curled into a loud snore and her head bobbed on her neck like a
frail flower in the wind. I must have sat there for quite a while trying to figure out what to do. Every now and then I poked
or shook her, but she only mumbled and went back to sleep.
I gazed around the parking lot of the St. Petersburg
each Library. A few more cars had pulled into spaces, but their occupants had already gone inside. I got out of the car and
went around to the passenger side. Tucking her Jell-O arms in the seat belt, I buckled her up, then locked both doors carefully
before heading back into the library. Mildewed, cool air came at me. "Anyone missing a lady with a parrot?" I asked, trying
to sound nonchalant.
The librarian smiled at me as if she was used to strange requests (which she probably was)
and said, "Not that I know of."
I turned toward the man standing at the card catalogue. "What about you? Do you
know a lady with a parrot?"
His whole body shook with the slight tremor of Parkinson's disease. He turned and
looked down his trifocals at me. "Birds aren't allowed in the library, miss."
A man in plaid shorts and black
socks who had been watching, grunted and went back to his world atlas. A woman in a pink smock and sneakers stared at me while
her companion just clicked her gum or her teeth, I wasn't sure which.
By that time I was convinced either they
knew her and weren't saying, or I had made up an imaginary parrot woman. The librarian suggested I leave my name, address
and phone number at the desk in case anyone turned up missing such a person. I short her a grateful look, gave her the information,
and returned to my car.
The parrot lady was still there, snoozing. A bit of spittle had gathered in the corner
of her mouth and her body had slid down a couple of inches in the seat. Nothing seemed to have changed, but then I saw the
matchbook resting on her lap. It hadn't been there when I left, but it was there now. Had someone put it there or had she
reached into her purse and left it there as a clue for me?
The words on the matchbook glimmered back up at me
in the morning sun. Single Hearts Club. What was an elderly woman doing with a matchbook from there? She was obviously not
about to answer, so I decided to drive her around a while until she woke up.
Keeping an eye on her so she didn't
slide farther, I maneuvered out of the lot at a snail's pace. I had only traveled half a block when I looked in my rear view
mirror and saw a heavyset man and woman in a blue Ford Festiva behind me. While the parrot lady snored, I pulled over to the
side, thinking her family had come to claim her at last.
The man swerved in behind me. After twenty years of
living in New York, I didn't trust anyone being behind me that I couldn't see, so I glanced in the rear view mirror again.
The two in the car were arguing and the woman wore a particularly ugly look on her face. When she raised her arm, I saw a
glint in the windshield and wasn't sure, but it looked like it might be shining off the nose of a revolver.
didn't wait to find out. My foot hit the accelerator. The parrot lady fell against her door, but I grabbed her by the arm
and held her in place. Ruffling its feathers and getting a better grip for the ride, the parrot squawked, then gave me an
are you crazy? look, but I ignored it.
Taking the back streets, I drove with one hand, skidding and squealing
toward my house. The Ford Festiva shrieked behind me on the first turn, but I lost him somewhere between the library and Sixty-Fourth
Avenue. To be sure, I went past my house and circled around and back. The street was empty.
I used my garage
door opener and gunned my Toyota into the tomblike darkness of my one-car space. The parrot lady moaned and seemed to be waking
up, "Where are we? Are we home?" she mumbled.
"Yes, home." I pushed the garage door opened once more before I
grabbed for her arm and hustled her to her feet. She stumbled out of the car with my help and shuffled into the back door
of my house.
The garage door clanked down with finality.