The Skeleton Makes a Friend
A Family Skeleton Mystery #5
Georgia Thackery is feeling pretty good about her summer job teaching at prestigious Overfeld College, and she’s renting a rustic cabin right by a lake for herself, her daughter, Madison, and her best friend, Sid the Skeleton. Together again, the trio are enjoying the quiet when a teenager named Jen shows up looking for her friend. Georgia doesn’t recognize the name, but she learns that the person Jen was looking for is actually Sid.
Sid reveals that he and Jen are part of a regular online gaming group that formed locally, and one of their members has gone missing. Sid admits that he might have bragged about his investigative prowess, enough so that Jen wants him to find their missing player. Given that Sid doesn’t have many friends offline—none, really, unless you count the Thackery family—Georgia agrees to help him search. They manage to discreetly enlist Jen, who lives in town, and follow the clues to… a dead buddy.
Now they’ve got a killer on their hands. Probing the life of Sid’s friend, they realize a lot is wrong both on campus and in the seemingly quaint town, and someone doesn’t want them looking deeper.
Sid unzipped the rest of the way, pulled himself out of the suitcase and back together, and tried to turn the knob. “It’s locked.”
“Can you open it?”
“Easy peasy,” he said, pulling a set of lock picks from inside the suitcase. My locksmith sister Deborah probably hadn’t realized that teaching my daughter Madison how to pick locks was tantamount to teaching Sid. Madison had shared everything she’d learned with him, and he’d promptly ordered his own picks online. “You really should learn to do this, Georgia. It’s not that hard.”
Despite his assurance, it seemed to take an awful long time to get the door open. Or maybe it just seemed like a long time because I kept looking down the stairs, worried that somebody would hear us and come to see what was going on.
Finally there was a loud click, and Sid said, “Nailed it!” He opened the door, and cold air streamed out.
“Brr!” I said. “Wouldn’t you know that a department with everybody on vacation would be the one with overachieving air conditioners?” The window unit in my classroom had gone out twice. “Not to mention the waste of electricity.”
“You can complain about it later,” Sid said. “Come on.”
I followed him into the human resources department, pulling the empty suitcase along.
There were four more closed doors: three offices labeled with names and one marked File Room.
“Here we go,” Sid said, using his picks on one of the office doors.
This lock was easier to deal with, which was a relief, but unfortunately, the smell seemed to be coming from that office. “I’m going in.”
“Remember what I said. Get in, look around fast, get out.”
“Got it.” He stepped inside.
Between the cold, the horrid stink, and the fear of being caught, I was hoping that Sid would be swift, but I was surprised when he came out in under two minutes. “That was fast. Did you find something?”
“Don’t go in there.”
“I wasn’t going to—”
Then I looked at him.
He shouldn’t have been able to look like anything but bone-colored, but somehow he seemed paler than usual, and his bones were so loose he was nearly falling apart. “What’s wrong?”
“He’s in there. At least I think it’s him.”
“Did he see you?” I said stupidly.
He slowly shook his skull, and only then did I realize what it was we’d been smelling.
Though Leigh Perry was born in Pensacola, FL and raised in Charlotte, NC, she has been living north of Boston, MA for 26 years or so. She shares the house with her husband, two daughters, two guinea pigs, and a ludicrous selection of books. While the population of people and guinea pigs stays constant, the number of books is on an ever-rising curve. Under the name Toni L.P. Kelner, she’s published eleven novels and twenty-something short stories, as well as co-edited six urban fantasy anthologies with New York Times bestseller Charlaine Harris.
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