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Charleston antiques dealer Abigail Timberlake Washburn is thrilled by her recent estate auction purchase of a spectacular bejeweled birdcage from India, but not so much by its occupant, a mouthy mynah named Monet. Still, her customers at the Den of Antiquity seem charmed by the insufferable birdbrain, so Abby figures she's stuck with him. That is, until she finds a stuffed starling resting on his usual perch with a ransom note demanding a real Monet (the painted variety) in ...
Charleston antiques dealer Abigail Timberlake Washburn is thrilled by her recent estate auction purchase of a spectacular bejeweled birdcage from India, but not so much by its occupant, a mouthy mynah named Monet. Still, her customers at the Den of Antiquity seem charmed by the insufferable birdbrain, so Abby figures she's stuck with him. That is, until she finds a stuffed starling resting on his usual perch with a ransom note demanding a real Monet (the painted variety) in exchange for her purloined pet.
Since she doesn't happen to have a priceless masterpiece on hand -- and since a mynahless existence isn't all that distasteful a prospect -- Abby figures she'll let the thief keep the annoying avian. But when her mama Mozella is abducted by the craven birdnapper, Abby must leap into the fray to rescue mater and mynah alike ... before the feathers really start to fly!
I bought the Taj Mahal for ten thousand dollars at an estate auction. A slew of people bid against me, but I kept my cool, and when the auctioneer's gavel pounded, closing the sale, I was the proud owner of India's most identifiable landmark. The crowd applauded.
Afterward, a number of people came over to congratulate me. "Way to go, Abby," they said, "way to go," but every single one of them sounded jealous. All in all, it was a very good day, even though I had one heck of a time fitting the Taj into the back of my Volvo station wagon.
It wasn't the real Taj Mahal, of course, but a handmade wire and sheet-metal replica that was actually a birdcage. The bit of information that came with it claimed that this piece had been commissioned by a British officer's wife back in the days of the Raj. The strange black bird that came with the cage was a more recent addition. Other than that the bird's name was Monet, and what he liked to eat, there was no further information.
My name is Abigail Washburn, by the way. I'm an antiques dealer, the proud owner of the Den of Antiquity, on lower King Street in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. My assistant is C.J. -- a.k.a. Jane Cox -- which stands for Calamity Jane. She has a genius level IQ, is a brilliant businesswoman and a dear friend, but she is one beer short of a six-pack, if you get my drift.
When I arrived at my shopwith the Taj Mahal in tow, C.J. was all atwitter. "Ooh, Abby, he's beautiful," she said referring to the bird. "Where did you get him?"
"He came with the cage. The auctioneer called him a, uh -- well, I've forgotten. Sorry, but I'm not up on my birds."
"He's a Gracula religiosa intermedia."
"A Greater Indian Hill Mynah. They're a member of the starling family. What are you going to do with him?"
"I haven't really thought about that. I was just so interested in buying this cage. Don't you think this cage is beautiful, C.J.?"
"I've seen prettier."
"But look at all that work. Whoever made this had to bend all these wires to create these filigree bars, and just look at all the bezel-set semiprecious stones on these sheet-metal domes.
It must have taken hundreds of man-hours to make, and I'll bet some of these larger stones -- like that amethyst, for example -- are worth something by themselves. I hope to double money on this with the right buyer."
C.J. shrugged. "The amethyst looks cloudy to me. Abby, can I have the bird?"
"Well -- "
"This species of mynah is about the best talker in the whole world, Abby. They can sound just like a human, or a cat, or a fire engine, whatever they want to imitate."
"Is that so? He hasn't said a word yet."
"Then I can have him?"
There is nothing like someone else lusting after your property to make it suddenly seem desirable. I gave the bundle of feathers a second glance. He wasn't much to look at; mostly black, with dark orange-brown shadings. There were featherless patches on his neck -- wattles I'd guess you'd call them -- that were bright yellow, but I certainly wouldn't call them attractive. A mockingbird might have made a prettier pet, a blue jay surely.
At any rate, neither C.J. nor I heard the man sneaking up behind us, which is why we both jumped when he spoke.
"Whatcha looking at?" he demanded.
We whirled. There was nobody there.
"You looking to pick a fight, buddy?"
"C.J., this is freaking me out." The voice reminded me of my long-dead daddy's, only without his Upstate drawl.
"Maybe it's a ghost, Abby. Have you ever had your shop exorcised?"
"They prefer to be called Apparition Americans these days, and no, I haven't had it exorcised. I've never had any problem with ghost -- Apparition Americans."
"Dennis, Dennis," a woman shrieked, "bring me a fresh pot of tea."
I'm four feet nine. C.J. is five feet ten. The thing that kept me from leaping into her arms was the look on her face.
"C.J., what is it? Besides the fact that this shop suddenly has more spirits than the state liquor store."
Much to my horror, the big gal started laughing maniacally. I wouldn't have been surprised to see her horse-size head start spinning à la "If you don't stop laughing this minute, I'm going to have you exorcised."
C.J. sobered pronto. "Abby, it's not one of them that's your culprit. It's him!" She pointed at the mynah.
"I told you they were good talkers, didn't I?"
"Didn't I? Didn't I?"
If I hadn't been staring at the bird, if I hadn't seen its throat bob up and down, I Linda Blair. Between guffaws she tried to speak, but wasn't getting anywhere.
Excerpted from Monet Talks by Tamar Myers Copyright © 2006 by Tamar Myers. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted June 6, 2005
Welcome to the glory of Charleston South Carolina, were houses are big, gossip is bigger and intrigue and mystery run rampant. At least for Abigail Timberlake Washburn it does. The petite owner of an atiques shop in the heart of Charleston, just bought the Taj Mahal for ten thousand dollars. And it's occupant, a mynah names Monet. Much to her dismay her customers love the quirky bird so Abigail figures she's stuck with him, until her bird seems to fly the coop. ........................... And then... mama Mozella disapears. And a note turns up demanding a real Monet in exchange for the talking one and Abigail's equally petite mother. Now Abigail and her trio of slueths have to solve this mystery before the feathers, and Mozella, start to fly. ........................... ***** I laughed all the way through this book. I couldn't put it down. If you need a grab you and suspense you book, (as well as a good laugh), I would definately recommend this book.*****
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