A Tiger's Tale (A Call of the Wilde Mystery)

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9780425257203: A Tiger's Tale (A Call of the Wilde Mystery)
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When a normally mellow tiger at a rescue facility trees a terrified vet, animal behaviorist Grace Wilde needs to use her psychic ability to get to the root of the problem...
 
A tiger can’t change his stripes—but if his behavior changes suddenly, there’s a reason. So when even-tempered Boris the Siberian tiger goes into attack mode, Grace knows there’s more to the story. Something is agitating the big cat. As she uses her telepathic ability to calm the tiger, she realizes he has witnessed a theft—not of something but of someone. A teenaged volunteer at the animal rescue facility has been taken...kidnapped.
 
The problem is Brooke Ligner’s parents believe their troubled daughter ran away and Grace can’t exactly reveal her source. Even though sexy cop Kai Duncan is aware of Grace’s secret ability, he can’t initiate an investigation based on the word of a tiger. Now, as Grace searches for solid clues to rescue the missing teen, it’s the human predators she’ll need to watch out for...

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About the Author:

Spending the first years of her life on a Costa Rican coffee farm blessed Laura Morrigan with a fertile imagination and a love for all things wild. Later she became a volunteer at a Florida zoo, helping out with everything from “waste management” to teaching an elephant how to paint. Drawing from her years of experience with both wild and domestic animals and her passion for detective novels, Laura created the Call of the Wilde Mysteries, including Take the Monkey and RunWoof at the DoorA Tiger's Tale and Horse of a Different Killer. She lives in Florida with too many cats, loves the Blue Angels, wearing flip flops in November, and thunderstorms.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

CHAPTER 1

The weathered sign on the gate read:

Happy Asses Donkey and Big Cat Rescue

Tours: Tues–Fri 1:00–dark.

Affixed below was a newer sign. The reflective white letters glowed in my headlights, and though the effect caused the words to blur, the message came across loud and clear.

ABSOLUTELY NO TRESPASSING!

We are not responsible for death

or injury due to your own stupidity.

There are wild animals inside this gate.

If one of them eats you, it’s your own fault.

~Ozeal Mallory, proprietress

I smiled. I’d never met Ozeal, but I liked her already.

From what I’d heard, Ozeal Mallory was dedicated, competent, and experienced at handling all manner of big cats. Judging from the sign, no-nonsense could be added to the list of her attributes. I wondered what had gone wrong.

The minute hand on my dashboard clock ticked to twelve past six. I was supposed to be attending a black-tie gala on Jacksonville Beach at seven o’clock. I was going to be late.

Usually, I’d welcome an excuse to avoid any event that had the words black-tie and gala in the title, but tonight’s fund-raiser was an exception.

A local animal charity had teamed up with the sheriff’s office to raise money to provide Kevlar vests for police dogs. As someone who felt the canine officers deserved as much protection as their handlers, I had decided to donate my services as an animal behaviorist to be sold in the silent auction. Unfortunately, this required I be present to smile, answer questions, and talk up what I do.

As much as I appreciated Ozeal’s signage, it was time to get the show on the road.

The problem was, there was no one on the road. Nor was there anyone in the parking area on the other side of the gate. I squinted against the dusky gloom of twilight and was able to make out the shape of a small building nestled in a clump of pine trees at the far end of the lot.

I stared for a few moments but detected no movement.

I knew there were animals just beyond the building. I could feel the low hum of their brains. Equine. Probably the rescued donkeys referenced in the sign.

Not long ago, I wouldn’t have been able to sense their presence, but my telepathic ability had taken a step forward recently. My range for connecting to an animal’s mind used to be limited to about twelve feet. But I’d been faced with a desperate situation and discovered you can accomplish a lot when you’re fighting for your life.

Not that my new, long-distance skill would help me get through the gate. Unless there was a Houdini donkey somewhere in the vicinity, I was out of luck.

I thought about honking the horn but not knowing the scope of the situation, I decided to eschew any loud, unexpected noises. I don’t have many friends—well, human friends, anyway.

Dr. Hugh Murray was one of the few. When he’d called to ask for help dealing with an angry tiger, he’d been in one piece. I wanted to keep it that way.

The thought made my gaze drift back to the warning sign and I noticed a faded arrow painted on the gate’s railing. Following its direction, I spotted what looked like an oversized doorbell with the words RING FOR DELIVERY written in block letters underneath.

Above it was a security keypad.

I cut my engine, pushed my door open, then stopped myself just as I was swinging my legs over the running board and caught sight of my new shoes.

My new high-heeled shoes.

I peered out at the muddy ground then glared at my inadequate footwear. After a moment’s consideration, I tugged off the heels and climbed into the backseat of my car, a vintage Skyline Blue Suburban named Bluebell. She’s big and loud and her cargo area is roughly the size of Rhode Island, so it took a minute before my fingers brushed over the hard rubber tread of one of my all-weather boots.

I fished out its mate, clambered into the front seat, shoved my bare feet into the boots, and hopped out of my Suburban, landing with a splat on the sodden ground.

The evening was damp and breezy, the temperature hovering in the mid-sixties, not unusual for October in North Florida. The rain we’d had in the past weeks, however, had been excessive, and I slipped and slid my way over the muddy drive.

I’d just pressed my finger to the buzzer when a four-wheeler appeared, skidding to a stop just on the other side of the fence. The driver, a young, willowy blonde, called out over the soft putter of the idling engine.

“Are you Grace Wilde?”

“Yep.”

The girl swung her leg over the seat and hurried to a post half a dozen feet inside the gate. She pressed something I couldn’t see, and, with a whirring click, the gate popped open.

“Ozeal said to come and get you as quick as I could,” the girl said as she opened the gate wide enough for me to walk through.

“What about my truck?”

She glanced up, eyes wide. If it hadn’t been for the numerous piercings dotting her pale skin, I would’ve said she looked like a typical girl next door. Big hazel eyes, a dash of freckles dusting her nose and cheeks.

“Oh—um . . . I guess you should pull in and park up by the office.”

I clomped back to Bluebell and hauled myself behind the wheel as the girl swung the gate open.

I drove through, parked, and grabbed the dainty beaded bag that was to serve as my purse for the evening.

A moment later the girl arrived on the four-wheeler. Her brows rose when she got a good look at my outfit.

Maybe she didn’t think the rubber boots went with the formfitting cocktail dress.

“Problem?”

“Um . . . I’m not sure you’ll be able to ride in that.”

I looked at the four-wheeler’s long, narrow seat and sighed.

“I’ll ride sidesaddle.” As we started off, I added, “Just try not to fling too much mud on me, okay?”

My sister would have a fit of apoplexy if she knew what I was doing. Emma had worked hard on putting me together for the evening. She’d chosen everything from my earrings to my underwear, and I was grateful.

It wasn’t that I lacked the ability to dress myself. The issue was dressing myself up. Every time I diverged from my standby jeans and T-shirt ensemble, I ended up looking like a clown in drag.

Really, I had to think of the children.

And my date.

Kai Duncan was a crime scene investigator for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. I’d been surprised to learn he owned a tux, but I was looking forward to seeing him in it.

Aside from quick lunches here and there or meeting at the shooting range where Kai was teaching me how to handle a firearm, we’d had a hard time getting it together in the date department. Inevitably, one of us would have to cancel because of work.

I’d be damned if I was going to do it tonight.

“Pick it up, girl. I got someplace to be,” I called over the growling engine.

We zipped around a barn and turned onto a narrow road that most likely ringed the perimeter of the property to provide access to the buildings that housed the animals. We passed several enclosures as we went. Most were empty, their occupants secured in the adjoining houses for the night. Finally, we slowed to a stop when a figure came into view.

Trying not to flash anyone on my dismount from the four-wheeler, I walked to where the woman stood and introduced myself.

“Ozeal Mallory,” she said and gave my hand a firm shake. She didn’t so much as blink at my odd outfit.

I couldn’t attempt to guess her age in the harsh glow of the four-wheeler’s headlights, but judging from other physical characteristics I’d say she was a mix of Hispanic and Sasquatch.

Tall and barrel-chested, with skin like mocha cream and rowdy black curls framing her face, she looked like she could play safety for the Steelers.

“I don’t want to spook Boris any more than he already is. We’ll walk the rest of the way.” She motioned for us to continue down the access road.

“What happened?” I asked, struggling to keep up with her long strides. My boots squeaked with every swift step.

“I wish I knew,” she muttered, then fell silent as we neared a large concrete-block building, where I assumed Boris was fed and housed at night.

Attached to the building was a large enclosure. We slowly made our way along the side of the tall, chain-link fence, Ozeal’s troubled gaze fixed on the Siberian tiger as it paced in a tight circle around the base of a spindly pine tree.

We stopped and I reached out mentally for a quick evaluation, brushing the tiger’s mind with my own. No trace of aggression. Boris had moved past whatever had spurred him to go for Hugh and moved on to neurotic pacing.

I pulled my focus back and scanned the enclosure. I saw neither hide nor hair of Hugh—but there also wasn’t any blood, which I took as a good sign.

“Where’s Hugh?” I asked.

Ozeal started to answer when a wolf whistle cut through the air. The tiger glanced up and I realized the sound had come from the flimsy pine sapling growing in the center of the enclosure.

I followed the tiger’s gaze to see Hugh grinning down at me from the precariously bent treetop. He cocked an eyebrow.

“Nice boots.”

“I have a date and didn’t want to get my heels muddy.”

His grin widened. “Must not be a very hot date if you came all the way out here just for me.”

“Careful, Dr. Murray, these boots are made for walkin’. I might just leave you up there.”

“Sorry. What I meant to say was, you look amazing and if you get me out of here in one piece I will make sure you have a chance to wear your heels. Even if I have to take you to dinner myself.”

I shook my head. “Do you ever give up?”

“Why? One day you might say yes.”

Not long ago, his flirtation would have ticked me off but I’d gained some perspective in the last few months. Maybe it was the whole almost-getting-murdered thing, but I didn’t take Hugh as seriously as I once did.

I turned to Ozeal, who stood with her hands on her stocky hips, frowning through the chain-link at the tiger.

“Okay, give me the short version,” I said.

“Boris has been agitated for the last couple of days so I asked Hugh to come out and take a look at him. He’s the most gentle cat we have. Even-tempered. Low-key.” She shook her head. “If he was a horse, he’d be giving pony rides to three-year-olds.”

“Okay,” I said. It was the best I could come up with. We all knew there was a big difference between a horse and a tiger. To my knowledge, horses didn’t eat people. Tigers, on the other hand . . .

“It’s just so out of character,” Ozeal continued, mystified. “There must be something wrong.”

“Your concern is touching,” Hugh called out.

Ozeal sent him a dismissive wave. “You’re not on the endangered species list.”

“Actually, at the moment, I’m not so sure about that.”

As we’d been talking, I’d noticed the lion in the pen across from Boris was watching us with interest—and hunger. It wasn’t that he wanted to eat us. He didn’t know what the humans were doing with the tiger and he didn’t care. It was past dinnertime and he expected Ozeal to get on with it.

Lions can be pretty bossy when it comes to keeping a schedule.

“Have you fed the other cats?” I asked Ozeal.

“Not everyone. I was in the middle of the evening feeding when—”

The lion chose that moment to voice his impatience with a roar. The reverberating bellow cut off Ozeal’s words. I was expecting it, but my heart still leapt at the sound. Even Ozeal flinched.

It didn’t matter how many times you heard it, a lion roaring that close made the caveman inside want to haul ass in the opposite direction.

“The natives are getting restless. Why don’t you deal with dinner and I’ll work on Boris.”

Ozeal gave me a long look. “Hugh says you’re the best. Can you get him out of there?”

“Yes.”

Probably.

“How?”

“I’m going to get Boris inside his house.” I motioned to the building.

“I already tried to lure him with food.”

“He’s beyond taking that bait. I’ll have to try something else.”

“And by ‘something else’ you mean . . . ?”

“I have a few ideas.”

“She eez the tiger wheesperer,” Hugh said.

I cast him a quick, unamused glance.

Ozeal gave me one last appraising look. “All right. Don’t let Hugh get killed. I’ll lose my accreditation.” With that, she turned on her heel and walked away.

I looked up at Hugh. “Dr. Murray—”

“Yes, Dr. Wilde?” I narrowed my eyes at the title. Though I kept my license current, I no longer practiced as a veterinarian and it sounded weird to be addressed as doctor.

I pointed my finger at him in warning. “Not a sound.”

“You’re the boss.”

Strictly speaking, Hugh had no idea how I did what I did. He just knew it worked. I have a good reason for hiding my telepathic ability: People would think I was nuts. I couldn’t do my job if people thought I was nuts. You have to have a certain amount of street cred to do what I do.

Before I could solidify my plan, or rather, wing it and pretend I had a plan, I needed to understand how the tiger’s compound was configured.

I walked back along the fence to the attached building and stepped through the door. Buzzing, fluorescent lights clearly illuminated the space. The layout was pretty standard. A hallway ran the length of the structure along the back wall. A trio of tiger-sized runs lined the corridor. Each had two doors—an access gate that opened into the hall and a guillotine door that led to the exterior enclosure.

I noticed several offerings had been tossed through the chain-link to entice Boris to come into his run so he could easily be secured.

I clasped the lock on the gate that separated the hallway from the run and gave it two swift tugs.

Better safe than dinner.

I checked to make sure my phone was on vibrate—which was about the only thing I knew how to do with the new iPhone—and noticed it was nearing six thirty.

I was going to be so late.

Pushing the thought away, I stuffed the beaded clutch under my arm and walked out to where I could see Boris, pulled in a slow, calming breath, and began speaking in a low monotone.

“Hey there, Boris. Hey, gorgeous boy.”

I continued my litany of praises and slowly, gingerly opened my mind to the tiger’s.

The neurotic pulse of his thoughts matched his pacing. But there was an undercurrent of worry or fear that kept flashing to the surface.

Ozeal’s instincts had been spot on; something was wrong with the big cat.

Boris. I gave the tiger’s mind a little nudge and his head swiveled toward me. Like many animals, Boris had never encountered a human like me. Curiosity short-circuited the pacing for a moment and he slowed.

Gotta love cats.

Now that I have your attention . . .

“Come here, big guy.” I urged the cat to come to where I stood, halfway between the outside corner of the fence and the guillotine door leading into his indoor enclosure.

Boris came toward me and I edged sideways toward the door. All the while, mentally urging him to follow. I lost sight of him for a moment as I...

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Condition: New. 2nd edition. Language: English. Brand new Book. When a normally mellow tiger at a rescue facility trees a terrified vet, animal behaviorist Grace Wilde needs to use her psychic ability to get to the root of the problem. A tiger can't change his stripes--but if his behavior changes suddenly, there's a reason. So when even-tempered Boris the Siberian tiger goes into attack mode, Grace knows there's more to the story. Something is agitating the big cat. As she uses her telepathic ability to calm the tiger, she realizes he has witnessed a theft--not of something but of someone. A teenaged volunteer at the animal rescue facility has been taken.kidnapped. The problem is Brooke Ligner's parents believe their troubled daughter ran away and Grace can't exactly reveal her source. Even though sexy cop Kai Duncan is aware of Grace's secret ability, he can't initiate an investigation based on the word of a tiger. Now, as Grace searches for solid clues to rescue the missing teen, it's the human predators she'll need to watch out for. Seller Inventory # BTE9780425257203

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Condition: New. 2nd edition. Language: English. Brand new Book. When a normally mellow tiger at a rescue facility trees a terrified vet, animal behaviorist Grace Wilde needs to use her psychic ability to get to the root of the problem. A tiger can't change his stripes--but if his behavior changes suddenly, there's a reason. So when even-tempered Boris the Siberian tiger goes into attack mode, Grace knows there's more to the story. Something is agitating the big cat. As she uses her telepathic ability to calm the tiger, she realizes he has witnessed a theft--not of something but of someone. A teenaged volunteer at the animal rescue facility has been taken.kidnapped. The problem is Brooke Ligner's parents believe their troubled daughter ran away and Grace can't exactly reveal her source. Even though sexy cop Kai Duncan is aware of Grace's secret ability, he can't initiate an investigation based on the word of a tiger. Now, as Grace searches for solid clues to rescue the missing teen, it's the human predators she'll need to watch out for. Seller Inventory # AAS9780425257203

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Book Description Penguin Putnam Inc, United States, 2016. Paperback. Condition: New. 2nd edition. Language: English. Brand new Book. When a normally mellow tiger at a rescue facility trees a terrified vet, animal behaviorist Grace Wilde needs to use her psychic ability to get to the root of the problem. A tiger can't change his stripes--but if his behavior changes suddenly, there's a reason. So when even-tempered Boris the Siberian tiger goes into attack mode, Grace knows there's more to the story. Something is agitating the big cat. As she uses her telepathic ability to calm the tiger, she realizes he has witnessed a theft--not of something but of someone. A teenaged volunteer at the animal rescue facility has been taken.kidnapped. The problem is Brooke Ligner's parents believe their troubled daughter ran away and Grace can't exactly reveal her source. Even though sexy cop Kai Duncan is aware of Grace's secret ability, he can't initiate an investigation based on the word of a tiger. Now, as Grace searches for solid clues to rescue the missing teen, it's the human predators she'll need to watch out for. Seller Inventory # AAS9780425257203

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Book Description Berkley Prime Crime, New York,New York, 2014. Mass Market Paperback. Condition: New. No Jacket. Mary Ann Lasher (illustrator). First Berkley Prime Crme Edition. The book is stored in a Mylar bag. "When a normally mellow tiger at a rescue facility trees a terrified vet, animal behaviorist Grace Wilde needs to use her psychic ability to get to the root of the problem. A tiger can't change his stripes-but if his behavior changes suddenly, there's a reason. So when even-tempered Boris the Siberian tiger goes into attack mode, Grace knows there's more to the story. Something is agitating the big cat. As she uses her telepathic ability to calm the tiger, she realizes he has witnessed a theft-not of something but of someone. A teenaged volunteer at the animal rescue facility has been taken.kidnapped. The problem is Brooke Ligner's parents believe their troubled daughter ran away and Grace can't exactly reveal her source. Even though sexy cop Kai Duncan is aware of Grace's secret ability, he can't initiate an investigation based on the word of a tiger. Now, as Grace searches for solid clues to rescue the missing teen, it's the human predators she'll need to watch out for". Size: 6.8 x 4.2 x 0.8 inches. Seller Inventory # 001179

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