Kelby: MURDER AT THE BAD GIRL'S BAR & GRILL
I t was the hissing that caught his attention. Like a tire going flat, like a snake giving warning—but loud. Almost deafening. The security guard was making one last pass before dawn when he heard it. Then saw it.
At first, Wilson thought it was just bats. Laguna Key is home to hundreds of them, maybe even thousands. It’s not one of the features mentioned in any of the retirement community’s brochures, but every night clouds of bats come screaming out of the mangrove forest, fly low along the beach, bank over the tennis courts, cast shadows on the moon, and slip into dreams.
But this was different. Louder. Angry. It made him uneasy. He followed the noise, the hum of it, back behind the bar, back to the Dumpster—then stopped. The air reeked of salt and death.
And there were wings.
Wildly flapping wings. They covered the Dumpster. Made it seem alive, as if it were some sort of a new creature. Iridescent in the blue-white glow of vapor lights. Menacing.
Their hissing seemed to vibrate through his body.
At this point, Wilson thought he screamed. He wanted to. He might have. He believed he did, but the vultures did not move. Hungry, they were trying to push their way inside the Dumpster, hissing at each other, unaware that Wilson was standing there. Or uncaring.
Wilson had a horrible urge to laugh. Sweat slipped along his spine.
A single bald red head turned toward him. The wrinkled neck, the sharp curve of its beak, the cool eye. The frenzy stopped.
Not good, Wilson thought.
The vultures all turned, their crinkled bloodstained heads bobbing in unison.
Wilson’s heart beat hard. A single bird broke away, flew slowly around him. Sniffed. The bird was so close Wilson could smell blood on its breath.
It swooped in even closer. Hissed. When the tips of its wings lightly brushed his forehead, Wilson flinched and the other birds began, again, their hissing. Spat at him. Bits of undigested flesh covered his shirt, turned the cool morning air acid.
Really not good.
And so Wilson did the only thing that a man in his position could do. He sang “Surfer Girl.”
“Do you love me . . .”
Apparently, the vultures did not. They fled.
Wilson took a deep breath. He was unsure. Uneasy. A little cold. The smell of blood, the rot, was overwhelming.
Carrion, he thought. The polite, less graphic name for roadkill. Then he leaned into the Dumpster.
He was, unfortunately, very wrong.
Excerpted from Murder at the Bad Girl's Bar and Grill by N. M. Kelby. Copyright © 2008 by N. M. Kelby. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.