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Book Excerpt From "A Fool and His Honey: An Aurora Teagarden Mystery"


I went across the hall into the room we’d decorated as a study and a television room. Plucking the cordless phone from its stand, I plumped down on the red leather couch in front of the windows. Madeleine, the cat that lived with us, emerged from her favorite private place, the basket where we put newspapers after we’d read them. While I was punching in numbers with one hand, I was tickling Madeleine’s head with the other. One part of my mind noted that I’d have to get Madeleine out of the study before Martin got home. He and the cat enjoyed a hate-hate relationship. It had started with Madeleine deciding Martin’s Mercedes was her basking site of choice, especially when the ground was muddy and she could leave some nice footprints on the hood and windshield. Martin had retaliated by parking the Mercedes in the garage and closing the door every night. Since it was then her move in their little game, Madeleine (who ordinarily couldn’t be bothered) caught a mouse, decapitated the rodent, and put the corpse in Martin’s shoe. Then Martin . . . well, you get the idea.

“Martin Bartell’s office,” Marnie Sands said. Her raspy voice was all business.

“Mrs. Sands, this is Aurora. I need to speak to Martin.” It had taken me weeks to stop apologizing for disturbing him.

“I’m sorry,” Mrs. Sands said, her voice several degrees warmer than it had been when I first married Martin, “but Mr. Bartell’s out in the plant. Want me to page him?”

I thought of trying to tell Martin that his niece was here with an unexplained baby, over a telephone where he stood surrounded by employees. “No, that’s okay,” I told the secretary. “Please ask him to call me before he starts for home.”

I hung up the phone. I made a face, the kind of face my mother always warned me would make my features stick in permanent disgust.

I strolled back across the hall to Regina. She was putting some bottles of formula in the refrigerator.

“I just made myself at home,” she said brightly. She’d gotten out a pan and boiled some water, and an empty can of formula powder was on the counter by the sink. “It always helps to have plenty made up and ready to heat. Now, when I heat them up . . .” and she described the procedure at tedious length.

Hayden stared at me with the big round-eyed goggle some babies have. He was a cute little guy, with a pink mouth and rosy cheeks. In fact, he was strikingly fairer than Regina, who was pretty enough, but endowed with the dark complexion and wide hips her own mother’d bequeathed her. Hayden waved his arms and made a sudden gurgling sound, and Regina looked at him adoringly.

“Isn’t he wonderful?” she asked.

“He’s so cute,” I said, and tried not to sound yearning.

“Too bad Uncle Martin’s too old to have another kid,” Regina said, actually giggling at the idea.

I could feel my back stiffen and I was sure my face had followed suit.

“We talked about it,” I said in a voice of pure ice. “But unfortunately, I am not able.” Martin, who was staring fifty in the face, hadn’t been able to work up any enthusiasm for starting another family, though at my just-turned birthday of thirty-six, I could still hear my biological clock ticking. Loudly.

However, it was ticking in a malformed womb, which let Martin off the hook as far as making a decision.

I began to empty the dishwasher, all the time telling myself I’d sounded hostile and I had to calm down. Regina, who really seemed to be remarkably tactless, had stuck a sharp stick into my tenderest grievance, my inability to conceive. She was staring at me now, trying to look properly cowed, but I detected a certain— what? Satisfaction? Her eyes had the same look I saw in Madeleine’s when she’d left those footprints all over Martin’s windshield. I had a sudden inspiration.