To Die Fur (A Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Mystery)By: Dixie Lyle
“They turn into a storm, right. But—getting on a plane when you think you have out-of-control weather powers? That doesn’t seem like a good idea.”
“I said the same thing. She agreed, but told me she’s always felt safe in the air. I knew exactly what she meant; ever since we were kids, we loved flying. We used to play this game on airplanes when there was turbulence, pretend we were on a roller coaster and yell Whee! Got told by more than one flight attendant to keep it down.”
“So she ran to Australia. That’s actually pretty smart. Not a lot of weather out in the middle of the desert, and fewer people to get hurt if something goes wrong.”
Ben nodded. “Yeah, that’s what she figured. She’s going to stay for a while, experiment a little, get used to what she can do. Says she’s already real good at making it hot and dusty.”
“And how about you? How are you adjusting?”
He looked thoughtful. “Pretty good, I think. Big breakthrough when I clued in to my new senses—temperature, humidity, barometric pressure. Little intense at first, but I can tune it in and out now. Haven’t tried to do anything more than this, though.” He gestured, and a breeze sprang up out of nowhere, ruffling his blond hair and blowing some papers off the table. It died down a second later.
I laughed. “That’s great! Impressive amount of control for a newbie, don’t you think?”
He looked proud and a little embarrassed. “I guess. Thunderbirds were supposed to be able to generate storms, but that wasn’t all. They were also—”
He was interrupted by Consuela, one of the maids, hurrying through the door. “Excuse me,” she said. “Miss Foxtrot? Miss ZZ is asking for you.”
“To be continued,” I told Ben, and he waved me back to work.
Whiskey and I followed Consuela out of the kitchen and to the sitting room. ZZ could have just called me, of course, but she was always misplacing her phone. “One of the problems with modern technology,” she’d sigh. “The smaller and more portable it is, the quicker you can lose it.”
ZZ was talking to Shondra Destry, her head of security. ZZ was dressed in a flowing, tie-dyed caftan, her curly orange hair tied back with a flowered lei, while Shondra wore dark pants, a light blue long-sleeved shirt, and a scowl.
“I don’t see the problem,” ZZ said to her.
“The problem is, he’s a ghost,” Shondra replied.
I stopped dead.
“A what?” I said.
“Oh, hello, Foxtrot,” said ZZ. “Shondra was just explaining a nonexistent problem to me.”
“Nonexistence is right,” Shondra said. “And that is the problem.”
I felt a little light-headed. Whiskey, standing right beside me, said, [Steady, Foxtrot. No need to panic.]
“I don’t—that isn’t—what now?” I said, in a very non-panicky way.
“He doesn’t show up in any database,” said Shondra. “He doesn’t exist. Which means either he’s given us a phony name or he’s had his identity scrubbed clean. Either way, he’s trouble.”
“You’re being paranoid,” said ZZ.
“Yes. That’s my job description. Paranoia Specialist, First Class. It’s right there on my contract.”
“Who are we talking about?” I asked, confused but no longer worried. I was pretty sure there was no database for ghostly canines. Well, there was the supernatural scent library Whiskey had access to, but that was a completely different thing.
“Luis Navarro,” Shondra answered. One of the guests due to arrive any moment.
“Oh, him,” I said. “That’s perfectly understandable. He’s here representing the interests of an anonymous applicant. He explained to me over the phone that his employer wants his involvement completely hush-hush. No publicity at all.”
Shondra gave me an incredulous look. “And you agreed to that? Foxtrot, this guy could be any random lunatic—”
I returned her look and added just a trace of friendly backspin to my reply. “Give me a little credit, okay? His employer is a billionaire with a keen interest in the welfare of animals. Luis couldn’t provide his identity, but he offered to donate a hundred grand to any charity of ZZ’s choice for the opportunity to attend.”
“And?” said Shondra skeptically.
“And,” said ZZ, “the World Wildlife Fund is now a hundred thousand dollars richer. Not many random lunatics are willing to pony up that kind of entrance fee.”
Shondra still didn’t look happy, but she nodded. “I suppose. Any idea whom he’s representing? Seeing as how you’re the one who talked to him.”
“He was cautious, but I got the impression it might have been someone based in Dubai. Oil money is my guess.”
“Sure. A fat cat looking to acquire another fat cat.” Shondra shook her head. “You’re not seriously considering this guy, are you? He just wants an expensive toy.”
“We don’t know that for sure,” said ZZ. “Mr. Navarro will have the chance to make his employer’s case to me, just like the others. A one and five zeros earns him a listen, don’t you think?”