From Lethal Lullaby
1. Pick up Andrew, Tracy, and girls from airport.
2. Play nice with Tracy, even when she’s being a pill.
3. Find new case! (But not until family visit is over.)
4. Final payment to contractor for renovation.
5. Interview Rachelle re: nanny job.
“Can I hold Laurie?” Asked Emily, my eight-year-old niece, her
eyes wide. Angelic curls framed her face, and she wore a lacy white
dress perfect for the summer heat. Edwina, two years younger and
Emily’s miniature in almost every way, bounced wordlessly at her
I’d asked myself many times how the same two parents had landed
on both the names Emily and Edwina. It was an unsolvable mystery,
like the Bermuda Triangle or the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.
The mouthwatering smell of barbecue drifted through my back‐
yard. In the background, the voices of my mom and brother blended
in a pleasant hum, occasionally punctuated by the less-pleasant sound
of my sister-in-law’s voice.
Shrill. That was the best way to describe Tracy.
“You can hold Laurie if you’re very careful,” I replied, standing up
from the picnic table under the pergola, a sleeping Laurie in my arms.
“Why don’t you run inside and get a beach towel, and we’ll all sit on
She disappeared into the house, leaving the sliding glass door wide
“Wait!” I cried. “Close the door. Whiskers will get out!”
But I was trying not to wake Laurie, so my voice was too quiet for
Emily to hear. I bounced my baby girl on my hip and jogged toward
the house for three steps . . . then slowed to a sedate walk.
“Stay inside, Whiskers,” I murmured. But I was nearly at the end of
my second trimester, pregnant with twins—there was no way I could
jog with Laurie in my arms. I reached the house right as my mischie‐
vous kitten peeked her little orange head out. “Back!” I called,
thrusting out my foot to block her while sliding the door closed. “Stay
inside, stay alive.”
Whew. Crisis averted.
I’d taken two steps back toward the pergola when I heard the
unmistakable whoosh of the door opening behind me. Turning, I
cautioned, “Careful of Whis—”
But it was too late.
Whiskers darted past Emily’s feet, making a break for the bushes
on the side of the house.
“Come back!” I yelled. Laurie stirred in my arms, then whim‐
pered, and I lowered my voice and cooed, “Go back to sleep,
“Everything okay, hon?” Jim called from his spot in front of the
“Whiskers got out,” I replied. “Can you take Laurie?”
“I’m about to pull the steaks off,” he said, a look of panic crossing
“I’ll get the cat!” My brother Andrew jogged toward me. “Where’d
I motioned to the bushes. “Under there. She’s not supposed to go
outside. I worry she’ll be hit by a car.”
In the direct sunlight, I felt myself cooking like the steaks on the
grill. Why was it so darn hot outside? Hadn’t Mark Twain said some‐
thing like, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San
Francisco?” Maybe it was just the pregnancy, but I swore it was way
hotter than usual. Was I going to need to start buying extra-strength
deodorant? I swore I felt a bead of sweat slide down my upper arm.
Andrew bent down next to the bushes and clicked his tongue.
“Here, kitty! Whiskers!”
Through the greenery, I caught a glimpse of orange-tabby fur as
Whiskers slinked behind a new bush. Andrew crawled after her.
Someone tugged on my sleeve, and I glanced down to see Emily
clutching a beach towel. “I’m sorry!” she whispered. “I didn’t mean to
let the kitty out!”
I ruffled her hair. “It was an accident,” I said firmly. “Why don’t
you spread that towel on the grass and sit down?”
She complied, smoothing her white skirt in her lap.
“Andrew!” snapped my sister-in-law, not moving from her lotus
position at the picnic table. “Don’t scare the poor cat!”
At the sound of Tracy’s sharp voice, Whiskers startled and bolted
across the grass.
“Take Laurie!” I cried, handing my baby to Emily and reaching
down to scoop up Whiskers as she ran by me.
Whiskers yowled in protest, and pain seared across my hand as she
dug in her claws.
“Ouch! Bad cat!”
But I wasn’t letting go. “Chase Whiskers across San Francisco” was
definitely not on my to-do list. I clutched the tabby close so she
couldn’t free herself by wriggling, and her back claws slashed at my
upper thigh. With a dramatic flail, she nearly broke out of my grasp.
Not. Letting. Go. I lurched forward, tossed my very bad kitten into
the house, and slid the door closed.
Scattered applause broke out behind me, and I turned and gave a
dramatic bow. “Thank you. I’ll be here all week!”
Laurie woke up, fussing, and I started toward the towel where
Emily was carefully cradling my baby girl. Then Mom let out a shriek.
“Kate! Your dress!”
I glanced down. The floral bodice was fine, but a bloodstain had
spread across the creamy skirt. Oh, I hope that will come out! But upon
further inspection, I realized Whiskers hadn’t just sliced me with her
claws—there was an inch-long slit in the skirt, toward the top of
Bad, bad, bad cat!
Plus, my hand throbbed where three bright-red streaks slashed my
tanning skin. I waved back at Mom. “Can you sit with Emily and
Laurie? I’m going to go treat these cuts and change.”
I stalked inside, shaking my head. When I reached my bedroom,
Whiskers rubbed up against my leg. I scowled at her. “What do you
have to say for yourself?”
“Brrrrt,” she trilled.
“That’s what I thought,” I muttered.
I peeled off the dress and tossed it in the bathroom trash can, then
washed off the bloody scratches and treated them with antibiotic
ointment. Sighing, I pulled on a flowy maternity maxi dress. When I
came back down the hall, my Instagram influencer sister-in-law was
standing in the kitchen, squinting at a bottle of marinade.
“Kate!” Tracy exclaimed when I approached. “Is this the marinade
Jim used on the steaks?”
Glancing at the bottle in her hand, I said, “Yes, that’s the one we
She slammed it down on the counter. “I knew it! It has gluten in it.
Jim knows I can’t have gluten!”
I rubbed my temples to stave off a looming tension headache. I
liked eating healthy as much as the next person—whenever I had time,
at least, and wasn’t beset by pregnancy cravings—but yoga-instructor
Tracy took healthy to a whole new level. It seemed like she was always
into a new granola-style fad. Right now, she was gluten-free—and not
because she had a health condition or even a food sensitivity. But, still,
Jim and I had bent over backward to accommodate her. The idea that
he’d tried to sabotage her with the marinade was ridiculous.
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