“Meg, you were right.”
I looked up to see Randall Shiffley standing in the barn doorway. He was wearing a suit but his snazzy black and orange pumpkin tie was loosened, suggesting that he was relaxing after hard day of “mayoring.”
“I often am,” I said. “What am I right about today?”
“About that memo to the town about stuff they should and shouldn’t do during the Halloween festival,” he said. “I thought sane, rational human beings could figure out that stuff on their own, but that’s not what we’re blessed with in Caerphilly. Can I run my draft by you?”
“Sure,” I said.
“This won’t take long.” He took the same pose he’d use if addressing a public meeting, unfolded a paper he held in his hand, and began.
“Citizens of Caerphilly, past and present!”
I chuckled at that.
“Too corny?” he said, in his normal tone.
“Just wondering how you’re getting the word out to the dead citizens,” I said.
“I could have it posted in all the graveyards,” he said. “Any of ’em who are actively haunting the living should see it, and those resting peacefully aren’t part of our problem. As we enter the final days of this year’s successful Halloween festival–”
“Do we know already that it’s successful?” I asked.
“Merchants are smiling,” he said. “Dog tired from ringing up all those sales to the tourists, but smiling. So yeah, it’s looking like a success—as long as we can prevent any of the disasters this memo is designed to address.”
“Carry on,’ I said.
“I would like to remind you of a few things that help keep our festival running smoothly. First, please remember that Halloween decorations displayed between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. must be family friendly. If your decorations involve excessive blood or violence, nudity or sexual themes, or anything not suitable for viewing by the small children who form a large portion of our visitors during the daylight hours, you must take them down or disguise them.”
“And who gets to decide what’s excessive?” I asked.
“I was getting to that. Members of the Goblin patrol will inspect all town decorations each morning and will be the absolute arbiters of what is acceptable.”
“Are you sure you want to call my troops the Goblin Patrol?” I said. “Remember, our official name is the Visitor Relations and Police Liaison Patrol.”
“Goblin Patrol’s catchier,” he said. “And slightly more menacing when it comes to the enforcement side of things. Moving on. Next item. Please remember that we have thousands of tourists visiting our beautiful town during the ten days of the festival. Unfortunately, the crowds will probably contain a few light-fingered individuals. Please make sure to keep your doors, windows, and gates locked during the festival, and if any of your decorations are expensive or have a strong sentimental value, please display them in your windows or on your screened porches, not out in the open where they could be stolen.”
“Are many people actually decorating with valuable stuff?” I asked.
“Mrs. Baker was setting up a skeleton tea party in her front yard.”
“That sounds nice.”
“Using some kind of antique black cups and saucers so fragile-looking I think they’d break if you breathed on them crossways.” Randall shook his head.
“Must be her grandmother’s black Wedgwood Jasperware tea set,” I said. “Probably not a good idea to leave that out in her yard.”
“I talked her into putting it all in her sunroom, but who knows how many other citizens are coming up with damn fool ideas like that,” he said. “Next item. School superintendent Olivia Shiffley has asked us to tell parents that while students are permitted to wear costumes to school on every day of the festival, they are not required to do so, nor are those wearing costumes required to have a different one for every day.”
“Fat chance convincing the kids of that last bit. Speaking of school—how many pages in that proclamation?
He stopped and counted.
“Only five, he says; and you’re only halfway through page one. I need to pick up the boys soon. Hop in the Twinmobile with me—you can read me the rest on the way to town, and on the way back if necessary.”
“You’re on. Okay, next item.”
As Randall trailed after me to the driveway, rattling off instructions to the citizens about how not to set the town on fire with their pumpkins, I couldn’t help thinking that much as I loved Halloween, I’d be glad when it was safely behind us.
“You’re worrying again,” Randall said. “You’ve got that frowny face. Cheer up. We’re past the halfway mark. We’re in the home stretch. Sure, we’ve got a lot of little problems—which this proclamation will help fix. But what can possibly go all that wrong?”
“Don’t jinx it,” I muttered. “Please don’t jinx it.”
You can read more about Meg, Randall and the citizens of Caerphilly in Lord of the Wings, the 19th book in the “Meg Langslow” mystery series, published by Minotaur. The first book in the series is Murder with Peacocks.
GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 12 a.m. eastern on September 4 for the chance to win a print copy of Lord of the Wings. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Winner will be notified within 48 hours after giveaway closes and you will have three days to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected.
About the author
Lord of the Wings is the nineteenth book in Donna Andrews’s award-winning, NYT-bestselling Meg Langslow series. Donna is currently serving as Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America, as Vice President of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime, and as author liaison for Malice Domestic. When not writing she reads, plays computer games, gardens with more enthusiasm than skill, and chauffeurs her nephews.