Our Junior Handlers, first introduced in The Corpse That Wasn't There, are introduced to wildlife rehabilitation when Merlin the Saluki once again uncovers a dangerous mystery.
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The second book in the Junior Handler Mystery Series, Wild Wings of Danger, is now available in paperback form from Amazon.com and the STOLA Store as well as for the Amazon Kindle.
“When Ree, Jake and Stacy began to visit Stacy’s uncle’s rescue farm, in order to train his Great Dane for the show ring, little did they know that big trouble would be right around the corner. Of course, with Ree’s psychic Saluki Merlin tagging along, that probably shouldn’t have come as a great surprise.
“Follow the kids and their dogs on a wild adventure that introduces them to wildlife rehabilitation, and brings them up against a group of unsavory characters with criminal intent. The Junior Handlers learn about wild birds of prey, raccoons and a horrible disease called rabies…the hard way. Isn’t it always “the hard way” when Merlin’s involved?”
“Wild Wings”, like its prequel, The Corpse That Wasn’t There, features the gorgeous cover art of the talented Jenny Hawkyard. The beautiful artwork wraps around the cover, and when fully opened gives the lovely image of Merlin the Saluki, looking upward at a falcon that flies overhead.
Our little group was so relaxed, distracted by the pleasant surroundings, enjoying Stacy's enthusiasm over being able to show off a place she knew, and we didn't, that what happened next totally took me off guard.
“So, Stace,” Jake was saying, “I think you should try free-stacking Samson. He's so big, that when you try to place his feet--”
“MERLIN!” I shouted, horrified at the sight of my Saluki's creamy tail feathers vanishing through the brush. I stood with a leash in my hand, and a martingale collar dangling from the end of it.
“Wha---Ree!” Jake spun toward the disappearing dog, and was nearly yanked off his feet by Finnegan's attempts to follow his sighthound buddy.
“MERLIN!” I screamed, and crashed into the brush, my feet barely finding the narrow side trail the Saluki had taken. “Merlin, COME! Merlin, COME! Merlin, COOKIE!”
“Ahhh roooo roooo rooooooo!” I heard from far ahead. The hound continued to call, making more noise than he normally did in an entire week. It was obvious, to me anyway, that he was making sure I could follow his lead.
His lead! That darned dog! The hairs on the back of my neck stood on edge, and the fear of more than losing my dog in the woods rose with it. I didn't like the chill I was getting, for the sound of Merlin's howls was clear, precise, and purposeful.
The last time he'd howled like that, he led us to a body that turned out not to be a body after all...and a whole mess of trouble.
No, I didn't like this at all!
“Roooooo wooooo wooooooooooo!”
The branches and bushes that partially blocked the path slowed us. We ran and tripped and dodged and detoured, always heading in the direction of Merlin's voice. I called for him to come, over and over, knowing as I did so that he'd simply ignore me.
Stacy was crying. “It's all my fault, if I hadn't insisted on walking through these woods, you wouldn't have lost your dog,” she gasped, when we stopped for a moment to catch our breath.
“I haven't lost my dog,” I replied, and gave her and Jake a look that showed my suspicions.
“Oh, no...you don't think....?
“Ahhhh ROOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” the Saluki cried again, sounding more insistent – and much closer. Then, “VVVMMMMOOOMMMMMMM”
What the? That was Merlin, most definitely my dog's voice...but it sounded muffled, as if he had--
The bushes ahead of us crashed and parted, and the cream Saluki leaped from them onto the narrow path in front of us.
Yup. He had something in his mouth, all right.
It was about the size of a football, seemed to be covered with feathers–and it stank to high heaven.
He'd found a dead bird.
“Mer, EW! Drop it, drop it!”
The hound did so, right on my feet. I leaned over and examined the thing, wrinkling my nose against the smell of decay. It was a bird, all right...or part of one. In fact, it was just the body. The head, the wings, the tail and the legs were missing. It was mostly gray on the back, its belly finely banded with black and white, and looked to be about the size of a bantam chicken.
Jake sighed. “Thank goodness.”
“Huh?” I turned to him, brows raised.
“It's just a dead bird,” he explained. “No mysterious disappearing human bodies this time. He was just being a dog!”
Just a few months before, Merlin had merrily led us all on an adventure that eventually led to the capture of wanted criminals. My mom's boyfriend...well, he wasn't her boyfriend at the time...Detective Mark Aaron, had helped us solve the mystery. This time, though, it looked like Jake might be right. I mean, lots of dogs liked dead things, right? Finding a dead bird wasn't all that unusual.