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Authors: Laura Morrigan

Take the Monkey and Run

BOOK: Take the Monkey and Run
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PRAISE FOR THE CALL OF THE WILDE MYSTERIES

“I predict a fabulous future for the Call of the Wilde series with its engaging characters, action-packed plot, and well-crafted mystery that will keep you guessing until the end.”

—Kari Lee Townsend, national bestselling author of the Fortune Teller Mysteries

“Looking for an amateur sleuth that isn't spending time cooking or baking? Grace Wilde is fascinating.”

—Lesa's Book Critiques

“A sparkling mystery debut.”

—Heather Blake, national bestselling author of the Wishcraft Mysteries

“A fun read that will keep you guessing!”

—Joyce Lavene, national bestselling coauthor of the Missing Pieces Mysteries

“Morrigan became one of my favorite authors with her debut book in this series, and this third continues to be a delight.”

—Kings River Life Magazine

“[A] fast-paced, well-plotted page-turner of a read that kept me at the edge of my seat.”

—MyShelf.com

“Well written, engaging, and entertaining.”

—Open Book Society

“This debut novel is actually one of the best involving communicating with animals I have read.”

—Mysteries and My Musings

Berkley Prime Crime titles by Laura Morrigan

WOOF AT THE DOOR

A TIGER'S TALE

HORSE OF A DIFFERENT KILLER

TAKE THE MONKEY AND RUN

An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

TAKE THE MONKEY AND RUN

A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2016 by Laura Morrigan.

Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME and the PRIME CRIME design are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

For more information, visit
penguin.com
.

eBook ISBN: 9780698198050

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / July 2016

Cover illustration by Maryann Lasher.

Cover design by Diana Kolsky.

Photos: Pawprints-Dzmitry Haishun / Shutterstock; Leopard print-zimmytws / Shutterstock.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

Dad, this one's for
you.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Much heartfelt gratitude to: My editor, Julie Mianecki, for her unwavering patience and guidance.

Myra Van Hoose, who helped with all things NOLA and gave me a great idea for a twist at the end. Next time, the vino is on me!

My small but mighty writer's group. Ladies, you're the best!

Justin Pullen for not only providing insight into the metaphysical and esoteric, but also hauling me to New Orleans for a much needed shot of inspiration.

My loving family who supports and encourages me. Especially my sister, Elizabeth. Thank you for always being there to brainstorm and make me smile.

And my mom, Frances, for cracking the whip (nicely) and helping with everything from research to edits. I love
you.

CHAPTER 1

She sat calmly, unaware of the killer waiting to strike. He'd been watching, I knew. Silently stalking ever closer. I also knew if I didn't do something fast, she was going to die.

Horribly. In front of a crowd of people.

She had no defense and no way to escape. The little dove's wings had been clipped—literally.

Her owner, a street magician currently wowing the crowd with his humor and sleight of hand, had probably trimmed the flight feathers of her wings for the bird's safety, never thinking a local feline would be so bold as to leap into the middle of his magic act.

Hunt!

The word popped into my head, all excitement and intent.

Crap.

I scanned the area. The New Orleans winter hadn't managed to strip many leaves from the trees in Jackson Square, leaving plenty of foliage to hide behind.

“Where are you?” I muttered, trying to home in on the mild buzzing coming from the animal's mind. I'd known I was looking for a cat before I caught sight of the big tabby, crouched under a hedge.

It's one of the things I can usually tell. Feline, canine, equine—they all give off a different vibe.

My ability to understand animals was the reason I was in the Big Easy. I'd been hired to help find a missing woman by talking to her cat. I was still sketchy on the details.

Before meeting my client, I'd had time for a walk. Which was how I'd ended up watching a street magician and now, looking for a way to thwart a murderous feline.

A casual observer might think the bird was well out of reach, but I could see inside the cat's head.

The section of fence he was crouched in front of was bent—maybe damaged in Katrina or some other calamity, or simply warped with age. However it had happened, the tabby knew there was a spot just wide enough for him to slip through. Once he was on the other side, it would be an easy leap to the table. The prize would be his.

The humans gathered around didn't bother him. Humans were slow.

Slow to react, slow to give chase . . .

Like his human, who had never managed to kill a single mouse, much less a bird.

He'd bring this plump white one to his human. And maybe this time she wouldn't squeal in alarm when she found it on the balcony.

I had to smile at the flood of thoughts coming from the big tabby.

The cat was trying to feed its owner, who was clearly the most inept hunter in the world—at least from the cat's perspective.

It reminded me of another cat I knew, Dusty.

Dusty belonged to Kai Duncan, whom I'd been dating since that summer. Our relationship had had a rough start, since Kai was a crime scene investigator and less than eager to accept the existence of psychic abilities without concrete evidence. Not to mention my habit of keeping people at arm's length. But things were going well now. I smiled every time I thought of him, which I figured was a good sign.

Not so good was that thinking about Kai always distracted me, and by the time I shook off the warm fuzzies brought on by thoughts of his bright green eyes and heart-melting grin, the cat was slinking through the opening in the fence.

I eased another step closer.

“Watch carefully”—the street magician's voice rose over the music of a neighboring performer—“as I, Marvo the Magnificent, make this dove disappear!”

Hopeful, I paused and shifted my gaze to the man. Maybe I wouldn't have to save the dove after all. The magician flicked his wand with a flourish and a second dove appeared next to the first, seeming to flutter into existence out of nothing.

Whoa.

The crowd cheered. The cat shifted his focus to the new, more animated arrival.

Catch!

The cat's excitement swelled as the crowd's applause died.

Oh no, you don't.

I knew shouting over the crowd wouldn't make a difference. I'd have to use my mind.

Hey! Cat!

I pushed the thought at the feline with enough force to make him fold his ears back.
Yeah—I'm talking to you, buddy.

The cat's tail twitched. Then he gathered his hindquarters to spring onto the table.

Not today, pal!
But it was too late. The cat had locked on to a target and was ready to launch.

In desperation, I did the only thing I thought would work—I hissed.

Like, really hissed. Loud.

Everyone, including the magician and the cat, stared at me.

Yep, I looked like a lunatic. It wasn't the first time and it wouldn't be the last, so I tried not to think about it.

Without taking my focus off the cat, I stepped forward and hissed again. This time, I ended the hiss with a warning growl.

I added an extra mental kick only the cat would feel,
projecting the dominance and ferocity of a big cat—something I'd picked up from a tiger I knew.

I staked my claim on the doves.
Mine!

The cat flinched. Eyes wide, with pupils so huge they made his irises look almost black, he flattened his ears and hissed back.

But I would be the winner of this little contest. I knew even before he shifted his weight and looked away.

Sorry, buddy
. I couldn't explain to the cat why he couldn't have these birds. Well, I could have but he wouldn't have cared that the old magician needed them to earn a living.

He was a cat. Socioeconomics didn't matter to him.

The magician looked from me to the now-retreating feline.

Understanding shifted his features.

“Oh my. That cat . . .”

“Was about to snatch one of your doves.” I nodded.

“My dear girl—” He turned to the confused audience and raised his voice. “This young lady just saved Naomi and Paloma.” With a flourish, he produced a silk rose from the sleeve of his coat, bowed, and presented it to me.

Everyone applauded and I suddenly felt more awkward than when I'd been standing in a crowd hissing at a cat.

“What is your name, my dear?”

“Uh—Grace.”

“Grace.” He paused to kiss my hand with a dramatic bow. “I am in your debt.”

“Okay—well . . .” I eased my hand away and set the flower on the table. “You're welcome.”

Backing up, I hightailed it out of the spotlight before the Magnificent Marvo could make me a part of his act.

As I neared the St. Louis Cathedral, I thought of the would-be dove killer and hoped I hadn't wounded the cat's pride too badly. He'd only been trying to do the right thing—in his kitty-mind, anyway.

Humans aren't the only ones who sometimes do the wrong thing for the right reason.

I was distracted from that deep thought when a man dressed as a jester danced past me wielding a butterfly net and wearing a sign offering free advice.

So far, New Orleans was living up to its reputation as a colorful, quirky, strangely charming city.

Despite the crispness of the January day, the crowd was thick. Palm and tarot card readers had set up shop along the wide, slate-paved plaza in front of the cathedral. Their brightly colored tablecloths fluttered in the breeze and added to the festive atmosphere.

My phone vibrated against my hand in my coat pocket. I fished the device out and knew without looking at the screen that it was my sister, Emma. Not for any extrasensory reason. I'm not that intuitive. I knew it was Emma because when she'd given me the phone, she'd assigned ring tones to different people.

Whenever our mom called, it played Vivaldi. Kai was the chorus of “Hot Blooded.” Our dad, who's a mechanic, had a car horn playing “Dixie,”
Dukes of Hazzard
style.

Emma'd recently changed her ring to play Cyndi Lauper's “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” which suited her perfectly.

“How's the Big Easy?” she asked.

“So far, so good. Everything okay with you?” I tried not to sound anxious but shouldn't have bothered. She knew me too well. I'd left my wolf-dog, Moss, and our kitten, Voodoo, in my sister's care. Emma was certainly capable of caring for them but she and Moss tended to have . . . let's just call them “personality conflicts.”

“Don't worry—everyone is fine. I just wanted to call and wish you good luck on your first case.”

“It's not a case.” We'd been over this. “I'm not a private investigator or a cop. I'm meeting with a client.”

“Who wants your help finding her missing sister, using skills only you have.”

“I'm not sure about that,” I said as I passed a shop advertising tarot readings, palmistry, and divination.

Not that I can do any of those things—I can't. My ability is far more mundane. At least, it is to me.

“Come on, Grace, this is a milestone. And you get a free trip to New Orleans! How's the hotel?”

“Nice,” I said, which was an understatement. The Hotel Monteleone was grand and elegant, yet cozy.

“Pet-friendly, too, right? Have you made any friends?”

“As a matter of fact, I met a nice poodle as I was checking in.”

“Yeah? Toy or standard?” my sister asked with interest. We'd had a poodle when we were kids—they were Emma's favorite dog.

“Standard. His name was Beauregard and he told me they put treats on his doggy bed as part of the turndown service.”

“Nice. Too bad you couldn't bring Moss on the flight. That sounds like the type of treatment he'd go for.”

“Oh yes,” I said, and had the fanciful vision of Moss, who looks like a large, white timber wolf, sprawled on his back with cucumber slices covering his eyes as someone painted his toenails. The thought made me smile, then made me miss my dog. “Give him a kiss for me, okay?”

There was a pause and I could almost hear my sister's nose wrinkle in distaste. “How about I give him a nice pat on the head?”

I sighed.

“He wouldn't want a kiss from me anyway.”

She had a point.

“Did you have a chance to check out the bar?” Emma asked.

I knew she was talking about the hotel's famous Carousel Bar, which not only looked like a carousel, but actually rotated.

“I only had a quick peek, but it looks just like you described.” Emma had been to New Orleans a number of times and, being Emma, knew all the trendy spots.

“You'll have to try a French 75 later tonight—they're fantastic. I wish I was there.”

“Me, too.”

“Yeah?”

“Of course. Who else would drag me out of my room tonight?”

“You better drag
yourself
out, little sister.”

“Listen,” I said, realizing I hadn't been paying attention to the cross streets as I walked. “I've got to figure out where I am before I get turned around and miss my trolley.”

“Streetcar. You're in New Orleans, not Disney World.”

“Aren't they the same thing?”

“It's
A Streetcar Named Desire
, not
A Trolley Named Desire
.”

“Point taken,” I said, stopping at an intersection.

“I've got an event tonight,” Emma said, “but leave me a message and let me know how it goes—okay?”

Emma was a—scratch that—she was
the
event planner in Jacksonville. “I thought you were taking the weekend off to start your birthday week.”

My sister believed in dragging birthday celebrations out for as long as possible.

“Starting tomorrow,” she said.

“Sorry I'm missing it.”

“No you're not.” She chuckled. Emma knew I could only deal with so much social interaction before becoming overwhelmed. I was good with animals. Really good. People? Well . . . I was getting better.

“Just promise to have a cocktail for me,” she said. “And kick butt with your case—maybe not in that order.”

“Deal.”

After hanging up, I tapped the GPS app on my phone. It took a second to zero in on my location, and then it indicated that I was two blocks away from the streetcar I was looking for.

I made it across busy Canal Street and onto the St. Charles streetcar just before it pulled away.

BOOK: Take the Monkey and Run
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