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The Macaw Saw the Murder

The Macaw Saw the Murder

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My cockatiel Chicken is dressed to impress in his tuxedo flight suit, but I’m one nervous bird mama. We’re hosting a gala to raise money for Half Moon Cross’s only small bird rescue, and I’m about to bring Chicken on stage to show off his newest skill—communicating via the Bird Talk app.

As host of the Parrots of the Caribbean pirate-themed tour, I don’t often get stage fright. Before we can unveil Chicken’s latest talent, we have to get his sidekick, scarlet macaw Ruby, ready to join him on stage.

Ruby’s snubbed me and the app, but I’m hoping she’ll put her best beak forward.

When I get to the private suite where she’s relaxing before her appearance, I discover she has an uninvited guest.

Eleanor Greeley, the wife of the mayor. And she’s dead.

But it appears that Ruby was the real target of this crime.

Bartender Carlos is taken into custody, but there’s no way he’s guilty. And the mayor’s convinced I have something that belongs to his wife.

The only one who knows what happened is Ruby…and she’s not talking.

Chicken and I are on a mission to find the culprit—but identifying the killer is only the beginning of this case. We need to make sure all the birds on the island are safe. We’ll uncover family secrets, lies, an exotic smuggling ring…and who’s behind it. 

Synopsis

Chicken and Keela are on the case once again when another dead body is discovered in Half Moon Cross. This time, scarlet macaw Ruby is the one who witnessed the crime.

Is the star of Parrots of the Caribbean ready to be a team player, or will she keep the deadly details to herself?

Check out Chapter One

“I love that top hat, Chicken.” Carlos grinned at us from across the bar. Tonight he was more handsome than ever in his suit jacket and button-down shirt.
But Chicken was the star of the show, in his tiny tailcoat, bow tie, and hat. He was my cockatiel—make that famous cockatiel—who had helped me solve a murder. When I found him abandoned in the escape room that I used to manage, I promised him that I’d always do right by him.
Now that Parrots of the Caribbean, the bird-themed pirate tour that we were guides for, sold out weeks in advance and we could barely keep Chicken mugs, magnets, hoodies, and plushies in stock, it was time to do right by other birds who might not be as lucky as Chicken.
Tonight, we rubbed elbows and wings with Half Moon Cross’s wealthiest residents as we raised money for Loretta’s Exotic Friends—an island rescue that specialized in pet birds and reptiles that were looking for a forever home.
Loretta had become a controversial figure on the island after she’d stopped pet stores from selling birds and lizards once she’d found out they’d been obtained by questionable means and sold dirt cheap to people who didn’t have forever in mind. Her rescue was always at capacity and the woman did magical things with extremely limited resources. We’d been supporting her on the down-low ever since our sales had gone through the roof, but tonight was our first large-scale fundraiser for the rescue.
“Chicken’s not as comfortable in the top hat as he is with his pirate hat.” The confession made me feel like a bad bird mama. Truth be told, being surrounded by all these rich people made me itchy, too. Not that I had a problem with money—not only was my bird bringing in some major bank right now, but I’d also taken over Parrots of the Caribbean from my aunt. Well, sort of, because Astrid had yet to go into full retirement mode. But my swanky small talk needed some serious work before I considered joining the country club.
I tugged on my dress. My coworker and new BFF Meg had talked me into wearing a flowered mini with one shoulder strap. It was easy for her to suggest because she looked good in everything. Aunt Astrid seconded her opinion when I tried to go with something a little less flashy, reminding me I was the host tonight, and to get people to part with their money, I couldn’t give them something ordinary. They wanted spectacular.
The dress was totally out of my comfort zone, but Astrid’s theory seemed to be working, and I could get used to the way Carlos looked at me while I wore it.
“It’s almost time for Chicken’s big show. Then he can get into something more comfortable,” Carlos said as he pushed a ramekin full of chopped grapefruit and watermelon at Chicken. “But of course, he can enjoy a little treat first.”
Chicken gave him heart wings in response, which was even more adorable in his tuxedo flight jacket.
I loved how confident he was under pressure. Tonight I’d be unveiling the app we’d been working with and show all the potential doners how Chicken could communicate with me. I’d already gone over the worst-case scenarios in my mind, but Chicken had no worries.
“Don’t get any of that on your fancy clothes.” I laughed, knowing my request was in vain. Birds were enthusiastic, messy eaters, and very little of the snack would actually wind up inside him. “Ruby will be mad when she finds out you had her favorite fruit.”
“You can bring a cup of grapefruit back there with you. She may consider it a peace offering.” Carlos waggled his brows. “Did she ever warm up to the device?”
“No. She still hates it. I don’t think she’s ever gonna like me.” I sighed. Ruby played favorites and I failed to make the scarlet macaw’s list. Didn’t matter if I brought her favorite treats, toys, games…
Or in this case, a tablet that helped birds communicate with humans. I saw a lady on the internet who’d used the device to achieve some incredible things with her birds, and I thought it could be really fun to teach Chicken and Ruby how to use it while we were on our Parrots of the Caribbean tours. Like maybe they could lead us to the elusive, fabled pirate treasure that was rumored to be buried somewhere on our route.
Chicken had learned enough that I was mostly confident debuting his new skill tonight in front of a live and very important audience.
But Ruby, sadly and somewhat predictably, wanted nothing to do with it. Any olive branch she’d extended when I got here had been promptly rescinded.
I wasn’t giving up. My plan was to show Roy how to teach her to use it, but first, I wanted to perfect the process with Chicken.
For tonight, all I could hope for was that Ruby would put her best beak forward when it was her turn in the spotlight. She was the main attraction, and she was poised to make her debut right before the silent auction bidding opened.
Loretta, our guest of honor came up beside me. She was dressed a little more casually than everyone else, in a plain blue dress.
“I feel so out of place at these things,” she said.
“Same.” I was glad someone said it. “Must feel even weirder when you’re the guest of honor.”
“So weird. I would’ve turned Astrid down when she suggested it, but the birds could certainly use the donations.”
“The auction will make the weirdness worth it. Your birds will have all the food and supplies they could possibly want,” I promised. We had some great items available, and I had everything crossed that they’d garner several bidding wars. I wanted nothing more than to make a big, juicy donation to Loretta’s rescue.
Chicken threw his head back and yawned with all his might.
“Ready for bed,” he said.
The problem with ritzy galas was that they took place at bird bedtime.
Carlos laughed. “Looks like someone needs a break before his big performance.”
“Want me to bring him into the bird room for you?” Loretta suggested. “You probably have a ton of stuff to do before the auction starts.”
“Thanks for the offer, but I have to get Ruby dressed.” I chuckled. The macaw’s distain for me was becoming legendary in our inner circle, which I was happy to include Loretta in. “Speaking of, have you seen Roy? I need him to help me. I could ask Astrid, but she’s in her element with these people. And hopefully she’s getting them to make big, fat donations to the rescue.”
Carlos motioned to the corner, where Roy was sitting by himself, enjoying a beer straight out of the bottle and a bowl of snack mix. He was wearing a polo shirt buttoned all the way up and a pair of tan pants that looked like they were brand new.
Loretta and I weren’t the only ones feeling out of place tonight. I gave her a wave before Chicken and I went to meet up with my coworker.
Roy had warmed up to me slightly, which was a miracle after I’d wrongly accused him of murder. We’d probably never be besties, and we didn’t have a whole lot in common, but he brought a unique perspective to his job at Parrots of the Caribbean, and most importantly, Ruby loved him.
“Got the dress?” I asked as I approached. Anxiety kicked in, and it felt an awful lot like the first time I went out on a Parrots of the Caribbean tour. Until I moved to Half Moon Cross, I’d always considered myself a behind the scenes kind of gal.
“The dress is hanging up, waiting for the diva,” he said. As far as Roy was concerned, Ruby would always be the star of the show. But it didn’t stop him from giving Chicken a quick cheek scritch before motioning for us to follow him.
He opened a closet door in the hallway, where the tiniest formal dress waited for Ruby. It had a black, sparkly top and a tutu bottom.
“How come we kept it out here when Ruby’s in the bird room?” I hated that she wasn’t sharing more of the spotlight with Chicken. She was great on a pirate tour, but unpredictable one-on-one. Bird people would understand the grumpy noises and nibbles were generally good-natured, but when we were asking people to reach deep into their wallets and donate, it wasn’t the time for any misunderstandings.
“Is that Ruby squawking or is the DJ playing something that makes me feel old?” I asked. Chicken wasn’t the only one ready for his pajamas.
“Nah, you’re not old, and this guy’s pretty good. Which might mean he’s old, if I like him.” Roy chuckled. “Ruby’s probably got her little bird watch on and knows we’re late. But I’m sure she’ll understand when you tell her you were showing off her counterpart while flirting with your boyfriend.”
And there was the dig. It was only a matter of time before it happened. “Carlos isn’t my boyfriend.”
Roy raised a brow and took the hanger off the rack. “Bet he’d like to change that.”
“He’s here to help raise money for the rescue.” I hadn’t asked for relationship advice, but people sure loved to give it. After my fiancé had decided to “find himself” in Costa Rica without me, I wasn’t ready for another romantic relationship. Even if Carlos checked a lot of my boxes. “And you have to admit, the Ruby Chicken drink he came up with for the event is a hit.”
The watermelon grapefruit cocktail went down way too smooth, and I hoped would leave our guests feeling generous when it was time to bid on the auction items.
“I’m so excited to see how much money the auction raises for Loretta’s rescue,” I added, changing the subject back to the task at hand.
“Loretta’s a tough customer.” Roy sighed. “I appreciate what she does, but this might come back to bite us in an uncomfortable place, if you know what I mean.”
Chicken hissed, as if he was volunteering to do that biting. Someone was overtired and would be happy to see his travel cage. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have time to take him out of his flight suit before our main event.
“No, I don’t.” I was fully aware the Loretta wasn’t the most popular person on the island. People who called others out on their nonsense rarely won congeniality awards. “I admire her outspokenness, and her willingness to do the right thing for the birds, even when people who are in a position to help her think the money should go elsewhere.”
“I never said the animals didn’t deserve the money, Keela. I’m just saying teaming up with her might cause us some grief.”
“Speaking of grief.” I was desperate to find a subject we could agree on. I didn’t want Roy’s negative vibes to rub off on me as the auction was about to start. “Ruby’s got some serious opinions.”
Her squawking had reached fever pitch.
“That’s my girl.” Roy pulled the key card out of his pocket and tapped it above the doorknob. He stopped short as soon as he walked into the room and turned around, his mouth agape.
Chicken hissed, barely audible over Ruby’s protests. But I could feel it. His little body was tense, and his wings were up, like he was ready to attack.
“There’s a body on the floor,” Roy said.

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