Hen of the Baskervilles“Meg, what’s this in your notebook about crickets?”

I started. I had been so busy on my computer that I hadn’t even noticed my brother Rob come into the trailer that served as headquarters for the Un-Fair, Caerphilly’s annual agricultural exposition.

And I wasn’t thrilled to see Rob browsing in my notebook-that-tells-me-when-to-breathe, as I call my giant to-do list.

Granted, the notebook wasn’t exactly as private as a diary, but still–I didn’t like seeing someone else making free with that familiar, worn-leather, three-ring notebook. I still shuddered when I recalled the disaster a few months ago, when one of my twin boys had learned how to open the rings and an avalanche of 5×7 pages spilled onto the floor where the other twin was finger painting.

Meg notebook“Put my notebook down,” I said. “And what do you mean, crickets?”

” ‘Find more live crickets,’ ” he read.

“For the boys’ pet toads,” I said. “You wouldn’t be interested in catching some, would you?”

“I’d be happy to go down to the pet store and buy some,” he countered.

“They’re out,” I said. “All they have is freeze-dried. The toads insist on live. Do you have time to drive someplace to buy some? You’d probably have to go to Tappahannock, or maybe even Richmond.”

“Too busy,” he said. “Ever since word about the murder got out, the parking lot has been a zoo.”

“Make that the whole fair,” I said, with a sigh.

“Weird, isn’t it?” he said. “You’d think having one of the exhibitors murdered would drive people away instead of inspiring them to come. And before you ask, I’m on my lunch break.”

He pulled out a sandwich and ostentatiously took a bite. My mouth began watering. I could tell just by looking that it was freshly made at the organic sandwich stand in the vendor’s hall. I had no idea what antibiotic free meats and organic cheeses were lovingly tucked in between the two thick slabs of fresh whole-grain bread, but it didn’t really matter.

I focused back on my computer. As soon as I finished a few urgent items, I could go get my own sandwich.

“What’s this?” Rob asked. “‘Call Clarion to ask for correction.'”

“That’s the email I’m writing now,” I said over my shoulder. “The Clarion website reported the murder under the headline ‘Murder at State Fair.’ I think the people who run the official Virginia state fair might get a little ticked off if they saw that. There! Email done.”

“Want me to cross that off your list, then?”

“No,” I said. “I’m the only one who gets to cross tasks off.”

“What about adding tasks?”

Rob was still holding the sandwich in one hand and staring at the phone he was holding in the other.

“Even more so,” I said. “No one gets to add things but me.”

“Okay,” he said. “So I guess I should hand you the notebook and a pen before reading you the text I just got. Some goats are loose in the pasture we’re using as our expansion parking lot. They’re eating the signs that tell people what row they parked in. And whoa! Some lady who’s phobic about goats is standing on top of a pickup truck screaming.
That I’d like to see.”

He stood up and ambled over to my chair.

“That doesn’t even make it into the notebook,” I said, pulling out my cell phone.

I called the volunteer in charge of the goat barn and arranged for a team of goat wranglers to tackle the trespassers. Then I called Dad and asked him to rush over to the parking lot with his medical kit to tend to the phobic woman. I sat back and closed my eyes for a moment.

“So no one gets to add tasks but you?” Rob said.

I looked up to see Rob standing in front of me, still browsing in my notebook.

“If other people add tasks to my notebook, I make a point of not doing them promptly,” I said. “Or sometimes not even doing them at all.
The same goes for tasks requested by people who manhandle my notebook.
Hand it over.”

“You might want to make an exception in this case.”

He held out the notebook with one hand while pointing to the bottom of the right-hand page with the other.

I followed his finger to see that a new item had been added, in our father’s neat, almost calligraphic handwriting.

“Solve the murder.”

Donna is giving away one (1) copy of THE HEN OF THE BASKERVILLES. Leave a comment to be included in the giveaway. The book will be shipped directly from the author. Contest ends July 19; US entries only.

You can read more about Meg in The Hen of the Baskervilles, the 15th book in the “Meg Langslow” mystery series. The first book in the series is Murder with Peacocks.

Meet the author
Donna Andrews is the author of fifteen (soon to be sixteen!) books in her Meg Langslow series from Minotaur. After The Hen of the Baskervilles (July 2013) comes Duck the Halls (October 2013), and she’s now hard at work on The Good, The Bad, and the Emus (July 2014).

Dru’s note: I love these titles!

You can reach Donna at her website, on Twitter or on Facebook.

Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

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