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For the Birds
cover art Ardy M. Scott.


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For the Birds by Aaron Paul Lazar is a finalist in the 2011 ForeWord Book of the Year Award in the category of Mystery.



For the Birds


Aaron Paul Lazar



Chapter One


The remote Adirondack dirt road twisted and turned into the wilderness, drawing us farther into the boonies. Blue mountains crested the distant horizon, and tall pines hugged the road on both sides. We'd seen no houses, no gas stations, and no people. Our hotel was nowhere in sight, and we'd been on the hilly dirt road for over an hour.

I turned to my husband. "Check the map again, will you, hon?"

The road dipped into a dangerously steep gully. Quinn grabbed his armrest, and I maneuvered the van through the trench at the bottom, hoping no one was coming in the other direction. No way could two cars make it through this stretch.

He unfolded the coffee-stained map. "It's supposed to be right ahead."

When we'd started our journey, my beautiful husband had reminded me of an Indian brave on the cusp of a great adventure. This was mostly thanks to his Seneca mother, who bequeathed her dark skin and strong Native American features to her only son. He'd worn the hand-sewn turquoise bolo tie I'd given him for Christmas over an unbuttoned crisp white linen shirt, his favorite old jeans, and comfortable moccasins. His clear turquoise eyes had darted with purpose, excited about our adventure. It was those same spectacular eyes that matched the stone in the bolo—and they were the only part of his appearance that came courtesy of his long dead English playwright father.

But now he sat rumpled and sweaty, and I was sure he was ready to kill me for not agreeing to buy that GPS yesterday. I'd pushed for the free Road-Mapper directions.

Instead, he neatly refolded the map to its original condition. I'd never figured out how he could do that. My map folding skills always resulted in a fat bunched up wad of crinkled paper.

I wondered if I would actually escape the reminder that I'd been a penny-pinching idiot.

No dice. He said it under his breath, but I heard it. "Maybe we should've bought that GPS." He blotted his forehead with his sleeve and cranked up the air conditioning.

I didn't dare tell him it wouldn't do any good. The guys at Monroe Muffler told me the system needed to be recharged. I'd decided against that outlay of cash, too, trying to save a few pennies.

I swung the van around the next crater and was about to congratulate myself for my expert driving skills when a series of washboard ruts nearly popped the fillings out of my teeth.

Quinn braced himself on the dash. "Want me to take over?"

We reached level ground again and I glanced at his strained expression. "You hate it when I drive."

His mouth tightened. He knew it was true. He nagged me about my speed, about traveling in the passing lane, and about my tailgating.

"No. Really. I'm just thinking about you, babe. Aren't you tired?"

Another giant pothole threw me against the side window, cracking my head against the glass. A slew of nasty words almost came out, but I held them in, gripping the wheel with my sweaty hands. If I swore in front of my mother, I'd never hear the end of it.

I glanced in the rearview mirror to check on her. In spite of the jolts, she was still asleep in the captain's chair. For a panicky second, I wondered if she'd died in her sleep. She quickly dispelled the notion by trumpeting several ungodly snorts.

I lost focus when I looked back at my mother and reacted too late to avoid the next pothole. The shocks ricocheted and bounced me out of my seat. My seatbelt snapped and I held my breath, half-expecting the airbags to inflate.

"Whoa! Watch it, babe. Don't blow a tire."

I jerked the car around a big depression and drove onto the bumpy grass on the side of the road, hoping we wouldn't sink in and get stuck in the middle of no man's land.

The partially functioning air conditioner was getting worse. I squirmed on the sticky vinyl seat and repositioned my death grip on the wheel. My dress was riding up, my underarms were soaked, and my head throbbed. I badly wanted a cool swim and a cold Mohito, but especially didn't want to admit to Quinn that we'd probably never see civilization again.

Our hotel should have been just around the bend—a half hour ago—but the absence of traffic confirmed my fears. We'd never get off this God-forsaken road.

The van chugged along the shoulder like a tortoise mired in molasses. An occasional pristine lake glimmered behind the trees, and I was half-tempted to stop the car, abandon my husband and mother in the van, strip naked, and plunge into the water. I'd swim away from it all. From the dusty road. From my grumpy mood. And from the pain I still felt after the death of my stepfather three months earlier.

Instead, I fumed in my seat and kept driving. After ten minutes of avoiding pits and crevices, I spied a Grand Canyon-sized pothole up ahead where the road had washed out.

Quinn's eyes widened when he saw it. He pulled back a long strand of his glossy black hair and tucked it behind his ear, trying to look unruffled. "Babe? How about it? Wanna switch?"

I really should have let him take over an hour ago, but if you haven't noticed already, I'm stubborn. And I always need to prove I can DO it, even if I can't do it.

I stuck out my tongue and pulled over. "You know you're a control freak."

Quinn gave me a good-natured smile. "That's me."

Damn him. Always so sweet.

A gray cloud followed us. We'd been kicking up the dust for the past half hour, and I pitied the poor slobs who'd been traveling in our wake. I glanced in the side mirror to check again for the annoying white truck that had been following us off and on since Utica. They disappeared a few minutes ago, but my mother, who insisted I call her Thelma since I was three years old, had been obsessing over the evil intentions of the truck before she finally took a Xanax and fell asleep.

I slid the lever into park and shut off the engine. Grumbling, I unbuckled my seatbelt and caught my reflection in the mirror. I looked like a snarling gargoyle. In a flash, a realization hit me.

Quinn's not the control freak.

I am.



Chapter Two


I switched seats with Quinn in silence. He restarted the engine and tried once again to turn up the air conditioning. "What's with this AC, anyway?"

I summoned a weak smile. "Don't know, hon," I lied. "Hey. Maybe we should check on Ruby. She's been pretty quiet."

Quinn's pet parakeet had been riding in her cage for four hours since we left our house on Honeoye Lake in western New York, and we hadn't heard a peep out of her in a half hour.

"Good idea." Quinn brushed his long hair away from his forehead. "Damn, it's hot." He depressed the parking brake and unbuckled his seatbelt. "Okay, let's see how our little one's doing."

The voice from the backseat pierced my brain like a stiletto.

"Sure, Marcella. Check on the bird, not your mother." 

A laugh snorted through my nose. "Sorry, Thelma. I thought you were still asleep."

"I'm awake now." My mother swept thick white bangs from her eyes. I eyed her in the rearview mirror. One of her cheeks was patterned red like the bright purple sweater she'd bunched up for a pillow. She released a long-suffering sigh. I braced myself.

"How could anyone sleep through that racket? Were you trying to wake me up?"

"Don't be silly. It's just the road," I said. "We can't help the potholes."

 She ran her fingers through her hair, took out her lipstick and compact, flipped open the mirror, and started to apply a thick smear of orange on her lips. She frowned, squinted, and frowned again. "I can't see a doggone thing. Where are my peepers?"

Quinn twisted around and pointed to her glasses. "Right there, on the seat next to you."

I started to tell her she needed to get another chain for them, but was silenced when a sudden hiss came from the engine. Hot steam billowed from the grill and a sick sweet smell invaded the van.

Quinn switched off the engine, stared at the white vapor, and laid his forehead on the steering wheel. Very softly, and with each word enunciated carefully, he said, "We're going to lose our reservation."

 He had a point. We were already late for check-in. We should have arrived an hour ago at the hotel to prepare for tomorrow's bird show, where Quinn hoped Ruby would win the coveted "Best New Breed Color" award. If we didn't get there soon, they might give our room away. We'd been warned. Call if you're going to be late. If we don't hear from you, you may lose your reservation.

 I touched his arm. "Honey? We'll be fine. I'll call them right now."

He didn't answer, but yanked the hood release, stalked around front, and flung it open.

Quinn is normally slow to anger. His serene manner was the first thing that attracted me to him ten years ago when I watched him working at the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York City. Well, that and his amazing turquoise eyes. But when Quinn blew, and I knew this was going to be a big one, he blew big.

His usually mild cursing grew salty as seawater. Steam belched from the radiator and boiled in the air like Old Faithful. He skidded back to avoid getting scorched.

My mother tapped my shoulder. "I don't like that language, Marcella. You should really talk to Quinn about it. It's unseemly."

What was unseemly was my mother telling me how to handle my husband. I watched twin pink spots appear on my cheeks in the mirror, then worked hard to squash my simmering irritation. "Sure thing."

I rolled down my window to catch the nonexistent breeze. I'd been trying to keep my mother from picking on Quinn all week, particularly where Ruby was concerned. She tried to take over feeding, grooming, even putting the bird to bed. Quinn managed most of the time to keep his cool, but it was clear her overbearing personality was starting to wear on him.

Hot steamy air wafted in my window, making the van even more unbearable. I pushed open the door to get more air, then fidgeted in my seat and flipped down the visor to look in the mirror again. I had to pee really bad, my hair hung in a horrible bunchy ponytail that made my neck sweaty, and my mascara had clumped and smudged beneath my eyes. One thing was certain; this was the last time I'd buy bargain basement makeup. I spit on a tissue, dabbed at the smudges beneath my eyes, and joined Quinn in front of the van.

"Great Spirit." He raised both arms to the heavens. "What have we done to anger you?"

Although he was a practicing Methodist, sometimes he couldn't help himself, and reverted to the traditions he'd learned as a child growing up on a reservation in western New York. I glanced up at the cloudless sky. "Honey? I don't think He's going to answer you."

Quinn is a great planner. He likes things on plan and on time. And even. He likes things evenly spaced and evenly stacked. No crooked edges allowed on stacks of books. No fork and knife that are skewed. They have to be perfectly aligned and parallel. It's not so bad, because although he occasionally borders on being an obsessive compulsive, he never really crosses the line. And our house stays really clean, which is fine by me.

He turned back to the van. "There's no radiator fluid left. Look at the hose." He pointed to the split in the rubber.

I didn't know much about radiators, but figured we needed it intact to get where we were going. Standing on my tiptoes, I peered down the dirt road in what I hoped was the direction of the hotel. A little flutter of nerves swam in my stomach. Were we even on the right road? The sun beat down on my back. The temps had to be pushing ninety.

Quinn started to pace and was arrested by my mother's raspy voice.

She slid open her door and stuck her head out. "What the hell are you doing out there? By golly, Quinn, I told you, you need a new van. And what about that navigation system I saw on TV? If you'd bought that when I said to, we'd be there by now."

If Thelma's voice cut through me like a toddler's screech, I could only imagine how it affected my dear husband.

I put one finger to my lips, encouraging him to hold his tongue. He clenched his fists, closed his eyes, and answered through gritted teeth. "The hotel has to be close, Thelma. We'll call for a tow."

I flipped my ponytail over my shoulder and stared at the horizon as if I could will a tow truck into view. After a few seconds, I dug my cell phone out of my purse and brandished it about, trying to get a signal. "Damn." I reached high over my head and danced in circles. Nothing. I tried another vantage point: a giant boulder. I waved the phone around with no luck.

In spite of the frustrating situation we found ourselves in, I caught my husband staring at me. His eyes locked onto my pink sundress and his hands lingered on my backside just a little too long when he helped me down. 

Squeezing me close to him, he whispered so Thelma wouldn't hear. "I love you in that dress."

I gave him a playful shove, but couldn't contain my smile. Even though his attentions were completely inappropriate, it was nice to know he still noticed. And I liked to think maybe the distraction of my curves calmed him down a bit.

At forty-one, I had to work hard to keep my waistline trim. I stood at five feet nine inches and was lucky I had a bit more height to distribute the calories than my mother, who was a portly five feet. I'd taken after my father, who died when I was three. My diet also helped. The mostly fish, lean meat, fruit, and vegetables regime I lived on worked fairly well to keep me slim. Except when I got a really bad craving for éclairs. Then it was all over.

Still, I tried to stay healthy. I ran three miles a day, but it seemed the total calories I could afford shrunk every year. For the first thirty years, I ate like a horse and looked like a greyhound. Now I ate like Ruby to keep the bulges in control.

I turned to peer down the road again. Quinn circled my waist from behind and leaned his head on my shoulder. "Don't worry. I'll go for help. You girls can wait here with Ruby."

I spun around to face him. "Hey, how 'bout I go? I didn't get my run this morning."

He put his hands on my shoulders and stared me down. "No way. It's too dangerous."

I wanted to say that I could run away from any bad guys, and maybe even faster than he could, but I held it in.

Although Quinn was in excellent shape—he kept slim by swimming in Honeoye Lake every day at dawn—he didn't have the endurance I did for the heat. I figured it was the English in him, and the Spanish in me. My father's parents had come over from Barcelona, and my mother was Irish and German. He already wore a thin sheen of perspiration, and the back of his shirt was soaked. He stripped it off and hung it on the van's side mirror. In spite of our predicament, I found it hard not to enjoy the sight. His abs were phenomenal, and his dark skin set off the turquoise bolo tie that hung on his smooth chest. I decided to give him a hug.

"We'll make it, hon." I laid my head against his skin. "Don't worry."

Thelma yelled out the window again. "Ruby looks hot." She turned in her seat and peered into the back of the van. "Gadzooks, Quinn. Can't you crank up the air conditioning?"

Quinn looked like he wanted to choke her, but I saw him silently count to five before answering. He stalked around to the side and slid open the opposite side door to let the breeze blow through. "No, Thelma. I can't even start her up. The radiator hose is split. You'd better get out and find some shade. I'll get the bird." He pointed toward the trees on the side of the road next to a grassy clearing. "Check over there, that looks promising."

Pride swelled in my chest. Damn. He had the most self-control of any human I'd ever met. On the spot, I decided to make tonight very special. My man deserved a reward.





Author Bio

Aaron Paul Lazar writes to soothe his soul. An award-winning, bestselling Kindle author of three addictive mystery series, Aaron enjoys the Genesee Valley countryside in upstate New York, where his characters embrace life, play with their dogs and grandkids, grow sumptuous gardens, and chase bad guys.

Author web site.

TTB titles:

LeGarde Mysteries
   Tremolo: cry of the loon
   Don't Let the Wind Catch You

Moore Mysteries
   Terror Comes Knocking
   For Keeps

Tall Pine Mysteries
   Essentially Yours





For the Birds Copyright © 2011. Aaron Paul Lazar. All rights reserved by the author. Please do not copy without permission.



  Author News

Double Forte' by Aaron Paul Lazar is a finalist in the 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Award in the category of Mystery.

For the Birds by Aaron Paul Lazar is a finalist in the 2011 ForeWord Book of the Year Award in the category of Mystery.

Healey's Cave by Aaron Paul Lazar is the winner in the Commercial Fiction category for the 2011 Eric Hoffer award, winner in the Paranormal category for the 2012 EPIC eBook Awards and 2011 Global eBook Award Finalist in Mystery Suspense!

Tremolo by Aaron Paul Lazar is an Award-Winning Finalist in the category of Historical Fiction Contemporary in the 2011 Global eBook Awards.


"In the world of literature nowadays, there is a vast array of competition, with new books arriving in stores every day. It's virtually impossible to keep up. Among the authors, there are your one hit wonders, who publish one bestseller and then disappear off the map. There are also authors who do well with their first two or three books and then just seem to lose their touch or become repetitive. Then you have Aaron Paul Lazar, who time and time again digs down deep in his pool of resources and comes out with a compelling winner every time, and he has done it again with For the Birds.

"When I write a book review, especially for a mystery novel, I try not to simply re-hash the plot because I don't want to spoil the experience for the reader. Instead, I dive right in to how the book made me feel and what affect the author had on me in the telling of his tale. When I read For the Birds, my feelings and emotions bubbled to the surface right from page one. I clicked with the characters immediately and found myself relating to their lives, relationships and problems, and I was ready and willing to embark on their journey with them. I wasn't observing them from afar or shaking my head in disbelief at their fictional circumstances. I was right there with them, experiencing the same things and feeling all of their emotions. This is because Lazar is a magician with words, and he can accomplish in a two sentence description what others take a whole page to do. His descriptions are like a beautiful picture unfolding under an artist's brush.

"...In a nutshell, this is an author who puts his heart and soul into everything he writes, and it definitely shows."
Cindy Taylor for
AllBooks Review International

"Up in the Adirondacks a husband and wife are on their way to a very special hotel where their wonderful parakeet will shortly enter a contest for best-colored plumage. Marcella's mother is in the back of the van with the bird. Marcella and husband Quinn are in front. And they're lost.

Written in first person from Marcella's point of view, Aaron Paul Lazar's For the Birds introduces a fascinating family about to solve an amazing mystery. Marcella's thoughts about her handsome husband, his dress sense, his patience, his controlling nature... are all very convincingly portrayed. And the fact that Marcella is no longer as young as she was makes for an interesting protagonist--stubborn, self-aware, with her heart most definitely in the right place.

The happy couple finally reach their hotel, only to encounter a web of misadventure and intrigue, plus a curious case of mixed-up identity. The parakeet's conversation becomes increasingly odd, as does mother Thelma's, and there's a delightfully low-key hint of the paranormal in their capers.

Mystery, danger, hard work and common sense finally lead to an intriguingly satisfying conclusion, and while I saw part of it coming, I certainly didn't see it all. An enjoyable tale with nice humor, clever touches of mystery and intrigue, and just enough surprising reality to make the reader think, this one's the first of what promises to be yet another successful mystery series from Aaron Paul Lazar...."
Sheila Deeth

"It may have been that I am on a horrible schedule and seem to be exhausted half the time, but I was hysterically laughing on the second page in. I mean, it was really cracking me up! It reminded me of how my husband and I are together and I could not get enough of the humor in this book...."
Crystal Langley

"...I'd highly recommend this book to anyone who is a cozy fan, anyone who is craving a light hearted mystery to hold, well...pretty much everyone! The paranormal aspect is pretty small and isn't the main focus of the story."
Jacque Stengel for GoodFamilyReads




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