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A Bone to Pick (Teagarden Mysteries,2)

Charlaine Harris

  A Bone to Pick


  Aurora Teagarden



  Charlaine Harris

  Praise for

  A Bone to Pick

  “Harris provides some genuinely funny scenes as Aurora breezily unravels the murderer’s identity . . . supported by an appealing cast of southern gothic characters.” —Publishers Weekly

  “A pleasant, fast read . . . Enjoyable.” —

  Real Murders

  “Real Murders is the first adventure for Harris’s perceptive protagonist and I eagerly look forward to the second . . . Harris’s story alternately charms and chills, a difficult combination she manages with aplomb and brilliance.” —Carolyn Hart, award-winning author of

  Set Sail for Murder

  “An ingenious plot and sufficient flow of blood keep the pages flying in Harris’s novel . . . Harris draws the guilty and the innocent into an engrossing tale while inventing a heroine as capable and potentially complex as P.D. James’s Cordelia Gray.”

  —Publishers Weekly

  “One of the most original premises I’ve ever come across in a mystery, and the whole book is great bloody fun.” —Barbara Paul, author of

  The Fourth Wall

  “Clever pacing along with ample red herrings and judi- ciously placed clues keep Harris’s story moving briskly. Let’s hope for another fast-paced mystery featuring Au- rora and her friends.”

  —School Library Journal

  continued . . .

  Praise for Charlaine Harris’s

  Southern Vampire novels featuring Sookie Stackhouse “The goofy charm of Harris’s world, with its humor and occasional terror, is what makes Dead Until Dark so delightful.”

  —The Denver Post

  “Harris brings off this blend of mystery and vampires better than most.”

  —San Francisco Chronicle

  “A fun, fast, funny, and wonderfully intriguing blend of vampire and mystery that’s hard to put down and should not be missed.”

  —Susan Sizemore, New York Times bestselling author of Primal Heat and the Laws of the Blood series

  Praise for Charlaine Harris’s

  Harper Connelly Mysteries

  “Too much fun.”

  —Wilmington Star-News

  “Harris debuts a series that just might surpass all her oth- ers in popularity . . . Will have readers dying for more.” —Booklist

  “Fast pacing, excellent character development, and a strong story line . . . This fabulous opening gambit affirms that every series Charlaine Harris creates is utterly fantastic.”

  —Midwest Book Review

  Praise for Charlaine Harris’s

  Lily Bard Mysteries

  “Lily Bard [is] the equal of Kay Scarpetta, Kinsey Mill- hone, and V. I. Warshawski.”

  —Library Journal

  “First-rate mystery.”

  —Midwest Book Review

  “Lily Bard gives as good as she gets. The reading is fast

  and the action’s faster, proving that women really are the better half.”

  —Mostly Murder

  “One of the best-drawn and most-compelling characters in contemporary mystery fiction—complex, smart, street- wise, tough.”


  Praise for

  A Secret Rage

  “Compelling . . . Powerful.”

  —The Boston Globe

  “Not many novels, and no mysteries, have shaken me as brutally as A Secret Rage.”

  —Los Angeles Times

  “Absorbing tension . . . Effective crime fiction.” —Booklist

  “A thriller built on a vital issue . . . Riveting.” —Publishers Weekly

  Praise for

  Sweet and Deadly

  “A first-rate mystery with special character . . . As con- vincing as it is surprising in the final revelation.” —The Washington Post

  “Harris writes neatly and with assurance, and she avoids the goo that makes equivalent books so sticky.” —The New York Times Book Review

  “Packs a perennial punch. It offers a rarity in popular fic- tion: an unromanticized portrait of a southern girl.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

  Ace Books by Charlaine Harris

  The Sookie Stackhouse Novels

  dead until dark

  living dead in dallas

  club dead

  dead to the world

  dead as a doornail

  definitely dead

  all together dead

  many bloody returns

  Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner Berkley Prime Crime Books by Charlaine Harris

  The Harper Connelly Mysteries

  grave sight

  grave surprise

  an ice cold grave

  The Lily Bard Mysteries

  shakespeare’s landlord

  shakespeare’s champion

  shakespeare’s trollop

  shakespeare’s counselor

  The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries

  real murders

  a bone to pick

  sweet and deadly

  a secret rage

  A Bone to Pick


  Aurora Teagarden



  Charlaine Harris


  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 0632, 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 BONE TO PICK

  A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author Copyright © 1992 by Charlaine Harris.

  Interior text design by Laura K. Corless. 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. ISBN: 1-4295-9520- BERKLEY® PRIME CRIME

  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.

  For Patrick, Timothy, and Julia

  Chapter One


  In less than a year, I went to three weddings and one funeral. By late May (a
t the second wedding but be- fore the funeral) I had decided it was going to be the worst year of my life.

  The second wedding was actually a happy one from my point of view, but my smile muscles ached all the next day from the anxious grin I’d forced to my lips. Being the daughter of the bride felt pretty pe- culiar.

  My mother and her fiancé strolled between the fold- ing chairs arranged in her living room, ended up before the handsome Episcopalian priest, and Aida Brattle Teagarden became Mrs. John Queensland.

  In the oddest way, I felt my parents had left home while I had stayed. My father and his second wife, ~ 1 ~

  ~ Charlaine Harris ~

  with my half brother, Phillip, had moved across the country to California in the past year. Now my mother, though she’d still be living in the same town, would def- initely have new priorities.

  That would be a relief.

  So I beamed at John Queensland’s married sons and their spouses. One of the wives was pregnant—my mother would be a stepgrandmother! I smiled gra- ciously at Lawrenceton’s new Episcopal priest, Aubrey Scott. I oozed goodwill at the real estate salespeople from my mother’s business. I grinned at my best friend, Amina Day, until she told me to relax.

  “You don’t have to smile every second,” she whis- pered from one corner of her mouth, while the rest of her face paid respectful attention to the cake-cutting ceremony. I instantly rearranged my face into more sober lines, thankful beyond expression that Amina had been able to get a few days off from her job in Houston as a legal secretary. But later, at the recep- tion, she told me my mother’s wedding wasn’t her only reason for coming back to Lawrenceton for the weekend.

  “I’m getting married,” she said shyly, when we found a corner to ourselves. “I told Mamma and Daddy last night.”

  “To—which one?” I said, stunned.

  ~ 2 ~

  ~ A Bone to Pick ~

  “You haven’t been listening to a word I said when I called you!”

  Maybe I had let the specifics roll over me like a river. Amina had dated so many men. Since she’d reached fourteen, her incredible dating career had only been in- terrupted by one brief marriage.

  “The department store manager?” I pushed my glasses back up on my nose the better to peer up at Am- ina, who is a very nice five feet, five inches. On good days I say I am five feet.

  “No, Roe,” Amina said with a sigh. “It’s the lawyer from the firm across the hall from the place I work. Hugh Price.” Her face went all gooey.

  So I asked the obligatory questions: how he’d asked her, how long they’d dated, if his mother was tolerable . . . and the date and location of the cere- mony. Amina, a traditionalist, would finally be mar- ried in Lawrenceton, and they were going to wait a few months, which I thought was an excellent idea. Her first wedding had been an elopement with myself and the groom’s best friend as incompatible atten- dants.

  I was going to be a bridesmaid again. Amina was not the only friend I’d “stood up” for, but she was the only one I’d stood up for twice. How many times could you be bridesmaid to the same bride? I wondered if the ~ 3 ~

  ~ Charlaine Harris ~

  last time I came down the aisle ahead of Amina I would have to use a walker.

  Then my mother and John made their dignified exit, John’s white hair and white teeth gleaming, and my mother looking as glamorous as usual. They were going to honeymoon for three weeks in the Bahamas. My mother’s wedding day.

  Igot dressed for the first wedding, the January one, as though I was putting on armor to go into battle. I braided my bushy, wavy brown hair into a sophisti- cated (I hoped) pattern on the back of my head, put on the bra that maximized my most visible assets, and slid a brand-new gold-and-blue dress with padded shoulders over my head. The heels I was going to wear were ones I’d gotten to go with a dress I’d worn on a date with Robin Crusoe, and I sighed heavily as I slid my feet into them. It had been months since I’d seen Robin, and the day was depressing enough with- out thinking of him. At least the heels probably hiked me up to five foot two. I put on my makeup with my face as close to the illuminated mirror as I could man- age, since without my glasses I can’t make out my re- flection very well. I put on as much makeup as I felt comfortable with, and then a little more. My round ~ 4 ~

  ~ A Bone to Pick ~

  brown eyes got rounder, my lashes got longer, and then I covered them up with my big, round tortoise- shell glasses.

  Sliding a precautionary handkerchief into my purse, I eyed myself in the mirror, hoped I looked dig- nified and unconcerned, and went down the stairs to the kitchen of my town-house apartment to gather up my keys and good coat before sallying forth to that most wretched of obligatory events, the Wedding of a Recent Former Boyfriend.

  Arthur Smith and I had met through a club we both attended, Real Murders. He’d helped on the homicide investigation that had followed the murder of one of the club members, and the string of deaths that followed this initial murder. I’d dated Arthur for months after the investigation was over, and our rela- tionship had been my only experience of a red-hot romance. We sizzled together, we became something more than a nearly thirty librarian and a divorced po- liceman.

  And then, as suddenly as the fire had flared, it died out, but on his side of the hearth first. I had finally gotten the message—“I’m continuing this relation- ship until I can figure out a way to get out without a scene”—and with an immense effort I’d gathered my dignity together and ended our relationship without ~ 5 ~

  ~ Charlaine Harris ~

  causing that scene. But it had taken all my emotional energy and willpower, and for maybe six months I’d been crying into my pillow.

  Just when I was feeling better and hadn’t driven past the police station in a week, I saw the engage- ment announcement in the Sentinel. I saw green for envy, I saw red for rage, I saw blue for depression. I would never get married, I decided, I would just go to other people’s weddings the rest of my life. Maybe I could arrange to be out of town the weekend of the wedding so I wouldn’t be tempted to drive past the church.

  Then the invitation came in the mail.

  Lynn Liggett, Arthur’s fiancée and fellow detective, had thrown down the gauntlet. Or at least that’s how I interpreted the invitation.

  Now, in my blue-and-gold and my fancy hairdo, I had grasped it. I’d picked out an impersonal and ex- pensive plate in Lynn’s pattern at the department store and left my card on it, and now I was going to the wedding.

  The usher was a policeman I knew from the time I dated Arthur.

  “Good to see you,” he said doubtfully. “You look great, Roe.” He looked stiff and uncomfortable in his tux, but he offered his arm properly. “Friend of the ~ 6 ~

  ~ A Bone to Pick ~

  bride, or friend of the groom?” he asked automati- cally, and then flushed as red as a beet. “Let’s say friend of the groom,” I suggested gently, and gave myself high marks. Poor Detective Henske marched me down the aisle to an empty seat and dumped me with obvious relief.

  I glanced around as little as possible, putting all my energy into looking relaxed and nonchalant, sort of as if I’d just happened to be appropriately dressed and just happened to see the wedding invitation on my way out the door, and decided I’d just drop in. It was all right to look at Arthur when he entered, everyone else was. His pale blond hair was crisp and curly and short, his blue eyes as direct and engaging as ever. He was wearing a gray tux and he looked great. It didn’t hurt quite as much as I’d thought it would. When the “Wedding March” began, everyone rose for the entrance of the bride, and I gritted my teeth in anticipation. I was pretty sure my fixed smile looked more like a snarl. I turned reluctantly to watch Lynn make her entrance. Here she came, swathed in white, veiled, as tall as Arthur, her straight, short hair curled for the occasion. Lynn was almost a foot taller than I, something that had obviously bothered her, but I guessed it wasn’t going to bother her anymore.

  ~ 7 ~

  ~ Charla
ine Harris ~

  Then Lynn passed me, and when I saw her in profile I gasped. Lynn was clearly pregnant.

  It would be hard to say why this was such a blow; I certainly hadn’t wanted to become pregnant while I was dating Arthur, and would have been horrified if I’d been faced with the situation. But I had often thought of marrying him, and I had occasionally thought about babies; most women my age, if they do want to get married, do think about babies. Somehow, just for a little while, it seemed to me that I had been robbed of something.

  I spoke to enough people on the way out of the church to be sure my attendance registered and would be reported to the happy couple, and then I skipped the reception. There was no point in putting myself through that. I thought it was pretty stupid of me to have come at all; not gallant, not brave, just dumb. The funeral came third, a few days after my mother’s wedding, and, as funerals go, it was pretty decent. Though it was in early June, the day Jane Engle was buried was not insufferably hot, and it was not raining. The little Episcopal church held a reasonable number of people—I won’t say mourners, ~ 8 ~

  ~ A Bone to Pick ~

  because Jane’s passing was more a time to be marked than a tragic occasion. Jane had been old, and, as it turned out, very ill, though she had told no one. The people in the pews had gone to church with Jane, or remembered her from her years working in the high school library, but she had no family besides one ag- ing cousin, Parnell Engle, who was himself too ill that day to come. Aubrey Scott, the Episcopal priest, whom I hadn’t seen since my mother’s wedding, was eloquent about Jane’s inoffensive life and her charm and intelligence; Jane had certainly had her tart side, too, but the Reverend Mr. Scott tactfully included that under “colorful.” It was not an adjective I would have chosen for silver-haired Jane, never married— like me, I reminded myself miserably, and wondered if this many people would come to my funeral. My eyes wandered over the faces in the pews, all more or less familiar. Besides me, there was one other attendee from Real Murders, the disbanded club in which Jane and I had become friends—LeMaster Cane, a black businessman. He was sitting at the back in a pew by himself.

  I made a point of standing by LeMaster at the graveside, so he wouldn’t look so lonely. When I mur- mured that it was good to see him, he replied, “Jane ~ 9 ~