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Authors: Linda O. Johnston

The Fright of the Iguana

BOOK: The Fright of the Iguana
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Table of Contents
Praise for the
Kendra Ballantyne, Pet-Sitter Mysteries
Fine-Feathered Death
“Exciting . . . Linda O. Johnston is a creative storyteller who not only writes a fascinating mystery but also creates a deep character study.”

Books ’n’ Bytes
“A fast-paced who-done-it . . . Kendra is a fun character, and her supporting friends and assorted critters make an enjoyable read.”

Fresh Fiction
Nothing to Fear but Ferrets
“Linda O. Johnston has a definite talent for infusing humor in just the right places . . . Pet lovers and amateur-sleuth fans will find this series deserving of an award as well as a place on the bestseller lists.”

Midwest Book Review
Sit, Stay, Slay
“Very funny and exciting . . . worthy of an award nomination . . . The romance in this novel adds spice to a very clever crime thriller.”

The Best Reviews
“A brilliantly entertaining new puppy caper, a doggie-filled who-done-it . . . Johnston’s novel is a real pedigree!”
—Dorothy Cannell
“Pet-sitter sleuth Kendra Ballantyne is up to her snake-draped neck in peril in Linda O. Johnston’s hilarious debut mystery,
Sit, Stay, Slay
. Witty, wry, and highly entertaining.”
—Carolyn Hart
Berkley Prime Crime Books by Linda O. Johnston
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada
(a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.)
Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia
(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India
Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0745, Auckland, New Zealand
(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196,
South Africa
Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / October 2007
Copyright © 2007 by Linda O. Johnston.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
eISBN : 978-1-101-09632-1
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the BERKLEY PRIME CRIME design are trademarks belonging
to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Linda wants to thank her dad, Steve Osgood, for the way he always promotes Kendra’s books to his friends and acquaintances. Plus, she wants to thank Bruce Baker—a truly wonderful, caring, and giving man. Bruce is a pioneer in augmentative communication systems—using computer-generated symbols to help human beings communicate when they’re unable to speak. For all we know, his company, Semantic Compaction Systems, may even be the first to figure out a way to translate Barklish into English and back again.
Oh, yes, and of course Linda has to get in her mention of her husband, Fred—another pretty good guy.
And Kendra? Well, she’s too busy being a murder magnet to take the time to thank all her friends and far-off relations.
—Kendra Ballantyne/Linda O. Johnston
Chapter One
MY CLIENTS CAN be incorrigible teases. The pet ones, not the law ones.
Which was why I wasn’t freaked at first when I entered the home of Edmund and Hillary Dorgan—yes,
Edmund Dorgan and his delightful wife—and wasn’t immediately met by their sweet, crumply, beige, and beautiful Shar-pei.
“Zibble,” I called to the invisible dog, hearing my voice echo not only in the arched and open entry, but also along vast and plentiful hallways on this floor and above. “Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
The good thing was that this was a gorgeous, huge, Tudor revival-style mansion hidden in the hills overlooking Sherman Oaks.
The bad thing was that this was a gorgeous, huge . . . well, you get it. There were dozens, maybe hundreds, of places a persnickety middle-size pooch could hide.
And right now, Zibble wasn’t zipping to my side.
Why did I want him to? I’m Kendra Ballantyne, pet-sitter extraordinaire, and I was there to care for the pup in the Dorgans’ absence.
I’m also a litigating attorney extra-extraordinaire. Yes, thanks to a temporary loss of my law license a while back, I do both, though seldom at the same time. Now, it was early A.M.—seven o’clock to be exact—and I had a meeting at my law office, Yurick & Associates, in forty-five minutes. That gave me about a quarter of an hour here before I had to hie my still-slender, thank heavens, bod down the hill to our Encino offices, on Ventura Boulevard. And hie was the operative word. If I hit any traffic, I was toast.
“Come on, Zibble,” I called again. No response. “Okay, then, I’ll feed Saurus first, and you’ll just have to wait your turn to walk and have breakfast. Cross your legs.”
Saurus was the other pet of the house. Rather, the estate. The young green and brown iguana dwelled in a custom-made cage outside, where he could soak in the sun—when there was any, this early in April—climb on thick, plentiful branches, hide in his artificial cave, or poop in his small swimming pool. He’d been named, Edmund had informed me, because of his resemblance to a mini-dinosaur. Not especially unusual for an iguana, of course. I’d recently taken on a couple as sometime-clients, although Saurus was my only current iguana charge.
I hustled along the shining parquet floor toward the rear of the house, beneath beautifully polished exposed rafters and beyond the wide wooden stairway with matching oak railings that led upstairs. I passed through the superbly equipped, sparkling clean kitchen into which I could have fit the entirety of my current apartment abode and out the rear door into the exquisitely landscaped backyard.
Question: Why didn’t Edmund Dorgan, one of Hollywood’s highest profile, highest sought, multi-millionaire film producers, and his family, not have an entire house staff holding down the fort and caring for their pets?
Answer: Usually, they did. However, Edmund was not only rich and famous, but he was also generous. He’d taken the whole human lot of his household on holiday with him for a month to the south of France. Oh, the staff would work there, too, in the villa he had rented. But they would also get time off to cavort and gambol. And even gamble in not-faraway Monte Carlo.
I’d wondered for a while whether I could moonlight as a sous-maid for some short period of time, just long enough to rate a spot on that oh-so-alluring safari. But what would all my dual kinds of clients do then? Let alone my own adorable pet—my sweet, loving, and smart tricolor Cavalier King Charles spaniel Lexie.
We had options, of course. I just happened to have met a whole new slew of comrades in my pet-sitter profession, and—
I’d finished my brisk walk along the meandering backyard path and stopped short at the cage’s location. The cage was still there, but I didn’t see the iguana.
“Come on out of your cave, Saurus,” I called. Did I smell bad today? Was that why these specific clients were shunning me—assuming iguanas actually gave a damn about odor? The three dogs and two cats I’d visited earlier had all been happy to see me, especially when I’d walked and fed them, as I’d intended to do with Zibble. Saurus’s care was considerably different.
When he didn’t immediately shamble into sight, I bent down to peer into the area of his cage that had been constructed as an iguana hideaway. I saw neither nose nor tail near the exit. In fact, I saw nothing inside resembling a reptile.
Only emptiness.
BOOK: The Fright of the Iguana
9.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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