To Die Fur (A Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Mystery)By: Dixie Lyle
“Dinner is at six, drinks at five thirty,” I said, opening the door to his room.
“Thank you very much, Foxtrot,” he answered. He looked around his room with a careful, considering eye as he placed his bags on the floor; it seemed to meet with his approval, because he nodded before turning back to face me.
“You have wireless Internet, of course?” he asked.
“Yes. The password is on a card on the nightstand. You have my number; call me if you need anything else.”
He frowned, ever so slightly. “Really? I would have thought you’d have staff to take care of such mundane tasks.”
“We do. But I’m something of a control freak; everything gets routed through me. You want more towels, I have to okay the color and weave before the maid brings them up.”
His frown turned into a smile. It was a nice smile, one that reached all the way up to his eyes. “That’s very diligent of you. I’ll try not to take up too much of your time.”
“Not a problem. Just doing my job.” I smiled back, gave him the professional I’m-leaving-now nod, and took a step backward.
He took the same step forward, as gracefully as if we were dancing. Stopped at the precise second I did. His smile stayed the same, but his eyes locked with mine. “And what if I required something a little more … esoteric?” he asked gently.
I blinked. Neither his voice nor the expression on his face had changed, but his body language was subtly different in a way that was hard to explain: poised, somehow, while appearing relaxed. Like some internal gear had shifted but he hadn’t stomped on the gas yet.
“That depends on what you have in mind,” I said carefully.
He gazed at me for a second before answering. “Tequila,” he said at last. “I have a fondness for it, but only particular varieties. Purely as a sipping drink, you understand; I value a well-made tequila the way some value a good scotch.”
“Give me a name and I’ll do my best.”
“Casa Dragones is my favorite, though a bottle of Milagro Unico will do. One hundred percent blue agave, both of them. The Milagro is flavorful and smooth, yet somewhat playful.”
“It sounds … intriguing.”
“Mmm. The Dragones is delicately sweet, with an underlying fire. And most satisfying—even more so if you have someone to share it with.”
Somehow, I didn’t think he was talking about tequila anymore. “I’ll see what I can do … but you may have to wait. These things can take a while.”
Oddly, he didn’t seem disappointed. “Yes, I understand. Hopefully, you will be successful before I leave.” He nodded once again, more formally, and closed his door.
“Huh,” I said to Whiskey as I walked away. “Well, I’ve been hit on aggressively before, but that was a weird combination. Full steam one second, then back down to zero without taking offense. Almost like he was just going through the motions.”
[It could be he had other things on his mind.]
“You mean like Augustus?”
[I mean like the firearms he was carrying.]
“What do you mean, firearms?” I demanded.
Whiskey had stopped, too, and now he sat down and looked up at me. [I don’t know for certain. What I do know is that I smelled gun oil and gunpowder. Maybe he’s just carrying ammunition and a cleaning kit.]
“Right, because packing two things you’re not going to need is what everyone does when they’re taking a long trip.”
[It could also be that he came into contact with those two things before he left. As I said, I can’t be sure.]
I rolled my eyes. “Terrific. I’ve got to let Shondra know. Once I come up with a way to explain how I know.”
[Except we don’t know. At this point, it’s only conjecture.]
He was right. Navarro was already on Shondra’s radar; about all I could do was stay alert and hope there wasn’t any trouble.
There was still no sign of Tango, but I wasn’t worried; she was a cat, and they keep their own hours. There was no real urgency in talking to Augustus, anyway—even if someone was going to try to kill him, it was unlikely he had any idea why. It wasn’t as if he’d been sleeping with another liger’s wife or embezzling from the local zoo.
So I spent the rest of the afternoon doing my usual, which is to say everything. I did research on things ZZ was interested in, talked on the phone to several charities, placed online orders for items ranging from cleaning supplies to gourmet foods, then spent half an hour tracking down a local supplier of specialty tequila and arranging immediate delivery. Then I dressed for dinner.
I have a standing invitation to ZZ’s salons. It’s usually up to me whether or not I want to attend, but tonight was a special case; ZZ had asked me to stay because she valued my opinion and she had a difficult decision to make: where Augustus was going to spend the rest of his life.
How ZZ wound up in this position was an interesting story, but not nearly as interesting as the story of Augustus’s early life. Ligers are a strictly artificial phenomenon, because lions and tigers live in different parts of the world and haven’t had any territory that overlapped in a very long time. The earliest historical reports of a liger come from a color plate made in 1798. Two liger cubs born in 1837 were exhibited to Queen Victoria. Royalty has always had a fascination with the exotic.