To Die Fur (A Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Mystery)By: Dixie Lyle
“That’s your call. Just remember, there are rich lunatics in the world, too. I’m going to be keeping my eye on him.”
“That’s fine, dear,” said ZZ. “Try not to shoot him until after dinner.”
At that moment the doorbell rang. “Ah, they’ve begun to arrive,” ZZ said. “Shall we go see who it is?”
“I’ve got work to do,” Shondra said. I knew she just wanted to go upstairs and monitor everything from the security feeds in her office, but that was probably better than having her scare the guests.
ZZ, Whiskey, and I met the first arrival in the foyer, where he was waiting after Consuela let him in. He was a tall, regal-looking Indian in a bright-red turban and a dark-gray suit, with a neatly trimmed beard. He had a single rolling suitcase that stood upright next to him, handle extended, its posture as straight as his own.
“Good afternoon,” he said as soon as he saw us. He gave us both separate and very formal nods. “You must be Ms. Zoransky. I am Rajiv Gunturu.”
“Mr. Gunturu,” said ZZ warmly. “So glad to see you. Call me ZZ, please—and this is Foxtrot, my personal assistant. If you need anything at all while you’re here, please let her know.”
“Hello,” I said.
“A pleasure, Miss Foxtrot. Thank you so much for all your hard work in arranging this meeting.” His accent was strong but perfectly understandable.
“Just Foxtrot is fine. I’ve put you in a bedroom on the second floor, if that’s all right?”
“That is fine. If you would excuse me, I would like to refresh myself.”
“I understand—long flight from India. Consuela will show you to your room.”
He nodded once more, grabbed his suitcase, and headed upstairs behind the maid.
“Remind me again,” said ZZ. “Which one is he?”
“From an Indian casino. Not the Native American kind, the Taj Mahal kind. Apparently his bosses think a white liger would be a big draw.”
“Ah. And why are we considering that?”
“Their brochure was very persuasive. Also, they pledged to donate a percentage of the casino’s profits to Greenpeace.”
“Oh, that’s right. I was mixing him up with that conservationist group for some reason.”
“The Nigerians? It’s probably the name of their representative—Abazu. As opposed to Gunturu. Though Abazu is a first name and Gunturu is a surname.”
“What’s the Nigerian’s last name?”
I smiled. “Chukwukadibia.”
ZZ blinked. “You’re making that up.”
“No, it’s his name. Try to keep a straight face when I introduce him, all right?”
[That’s not a strange name. I knew a terrier once named Princess Boopsie Loopsy Quimbasket Biscuit Barrel the Third.]
Quiet, you. “I was just going to go over the menu for tonight with Ben. Any last-minute requests or changes?”
“No, no, I’m sure he’ll do his usual amazing job. So, when are you and he going out again?”
My turn to blink. “Me and he what now?”
She gave me a look. “Going out. As in, you went out once and he likes you and you like him and why haven’t you done it again?”
“I just—he doesn’t—so there’s not—”
“Yes, yes. You’re very busy and you work together and you’re worried it’ll be awkward if it doesn’t work out. Nonsense. You’re both adults and life is too short. Work it out—that’s what you’re good at, are you not?”
Leave it to ZZ to cut right to the heart of the matter. “Um, it’s not quite that simple—”
Thankfully, we were interrupted by the doorbell again. This time ZZ opened it herself.
“Hello!” said the barrel-chested man with the bushy blond mustache. He had two large suitcases with him, one on either side. There was a taxi parked in the turnaround behind him, with the driver and an Asian woman hauling more luggage out of the trunk. “You must be ZZ. I’m Jaro Karst—nice to meet you!”
He stuck out a large hand, and ZZ took it. “Hello, Jaro. Do you need help with your bags?” She glanced over at the woman, who was struggling with numerous satchels and suitcases.
Jaro followed her look. “Oh! Sorry—let me give you a hand, love.” He trotted over and grabbed one of the larger bags. The woman nodded and said, “Thank you.” I grabbed two more, leaving her able to at least move. She marched up to ZZ and said. “Greetings. I am Zhen Yao, representing the Wuhan Zoo. You are Mrs. Zelda Zoransky?”
“Call me ZZ, dear.”
Zhen Yao was dressed mostly in black, and seemed a little nervous. “Ah. Zee-zee Deer. Yes. I am very pleased to be here.”
“Zhen Yao and Jaro Karst?” I said. “I didn’t expect you two to show up together.”
“Ran into each other at the airport,” said Jaro. “Complete coincidence. Wound up sharing a cab—funny how life works, eh?”
“He recognized the logo of the Wuhan Zoo on my luggage,” said Zhen. She sounded a little defensive. “It seemed the reasonable course of action.”