Lord of the Wings: A Meg Langslow Mystery | Chapter 11 of 37 - Part: 1 of 3

Author: Donna Andrews | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 2435 Views | Add a Review

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Chapter 6

The Bat Cave was Grandfather’s pièce de résistance. He’d wanted to give visitors the closest thing possible to what they’d experience if they went to a real Bat Cave—without, of course, subjecting the bats to any danger or annoyance from the humans intruding into their realm.

So the Bat Cave was built as a single huge space, several stories tall, in which the bats could fly freely and roost wherever they wanted. We mere humans traversed the floor of the Bat Cave confined to a narrow, winding tunnel. The sides of the tunnel were made of netting, so fine it was almost invisible—and in two layers, with a few inches of space between them, to keep us from sticking our fingers through the mesh to touch the bats. The roof was solid, to protect us from the bats’ droppings, but made of clear glass, so we could look up and see the bats overhead—at least we could this early in the day, before the guano had piled up too badly. And we could hear the bats—the rustling of their wings and the squeaking noises they made—and feel the slight movement in the air as they rushed past.

Unfortunately we could also smell them. The bat guano reeked of ammonia. Not for the first time, I questioned the wisdom of having visitors go from the Eucalyptus Forest directly into the Bat Cave. I loved the way the gentle but pervasive eucalyptus scent cleared my sinuses and sharpened my sense of smell, but to go directly from that to the stench of the bats was cruel and unusual punishment.

And even though I knew the ultrasounds bats emitted as part of their echolocation was too high for human ears, I couldn’t help wondering if they didn’t have some kind of effect on us—perhaps subliminally. Every time I entered the Bat Cave, it felt as if the air was pressing in on my ears and throat. Maybe it was those ultrasonic bat cries.

Or maybe it was just my claustrophobia kicking in. Either way, I had little desire to linger in the Bat Cave. But I wasn’t about to let the children know how I felt.

I started to take the deep yoga breaths that Rose Noire always recommended I use to calm myself, and after the first one I decided that in the Bat Cave, I’d have to work on being calm while breathing shallowly.

We couldn’t see the children but we could hear their voices somewhere ahead of us. I hurried to catch up with them. And the fact that catching up with them took me closer to the exit was also nice.

“No, the bats don’t bite,” Grandfather was saying. “Only vampire bats bite, and we don’t have any vampire bats in the Bat Cave.”

“I want to see the vampire bats.” Mason again.

“We’ll see some,” Grandfather said. “They have their own habitat, just before the exit. But for now, enjoy the Bat Cave.”

Most of the children seemed to be enjoying it. The group was only slightly smaller than it had been when I’d last seen it in the swamp exhibit. Perhaps a few children had freaked at the sight—and smell—of the Bat Cave and had to be taken out to calm down. Or perhaps a few parents decided to whisk their darlings away before more fake body parts appeared. A couple of the children seemed to be clinging to their parents in a way that suggested they were not wholly charmed by their surroundings. But most of the class were pressing against the inside of the mesh, trying to get as close to the bats as possible and muttering things like “awesome” and “wicked” and even that old standby from my generation, “cool.”

As Grandfather lectured the children on the bats, he was holding his cell phone in his hand, and glanced down at it from time to time. He eventually wrapped up his spiel and walked over to Michael and me, leaving the class group to enjoy the bats on their own.

“Lot of Brigade people on their way,” he said. “And Caroline’s coming to help organize them.”

“Good.” I liked Caroline, who in addition to running a local private wildlife sanctuary was one of Grandfather’s usual allies when he embarked on an environmental crusade or an animal welfare mission. She was cheerful, organized, and one of the few people in the universe capable of bossing Grandfather around.

“And I guess it’s time I took your brother up on that offer of his,” Grandfather went on.

“What offer was that?” Not, I hoped, his notion of opening a zoo annex in the building where Mutant Wizards, Rob’s computer gaming company, had its offices. However much the programmers might enjoy the presence of wolves and badgers, I didn’t think the feeling would be mutual.

“He says some of his techs can install cameras all around the perimeter of the fence, and also in key points inside the zoo,” Grandfather said. “And then set up a big control room so someone on my staff can watch it all.”

“Sounds like a good idea,” I said. “But how long is that going to take?”

“No idea,” he said. “So until we can get it up and running, we’ll set up patrols of Brigade members. First thing is to get through this blasted spook fest without any more of my animals being upset.”

I’d have been insulted at the implication that Grandfather cared more about protecting his zoo animals than his grandchildren if I didn’t know that he more or less lumped them—and the rest of his family—in with the animals. He’d recently remarked that Josh and Jamie were admirable young primates, more amusing than spider monkeys and arguably as clever as baby orangutans—rare praise indeed.

Michael and I arranged for our two amusing young primates to ride home with Mason’s mother and left the children to enjoy the Bat Cave for as long as their attention spans and Grandfather’s patience would allow.

Crowds were already starting to gather outside the zoo. I checked my watch: 10:10. Still nearly an hour before the zoo opened. I saw two of my Goblin Patrol members standing nearby. One was Osgood Shiffley, a cousin of Randall’s, who ran Caerphilly’s only gas station. One of these days I’d ask Osgood why he’d chosen a giant chicken costume for Halloween. Left over, perhaps, from a long ago career with some obscure fast food chain? The other, Ragnar Ragnarsen, was the closest Caerphilly came to having a real celebrity. He was a retired heavy metal drummer—retired because the last three bands he had played in had self-destructed in ways that were pretty spectacular even by heavy metal standards, leaving Ragnar the only one still alive who wasn’t committed, incarcerated, or in semi-permanent rehab. Although he was the mildest-mannered soul imaginable, Ragnar was taller than Michael—at least six eight—and built like a sumo wrestler, so in his black-leather Viking costume—complete with real, waist-length flaxen braids and a war ax whose edge I hoped wasn’t too sharp—he made a satisfactorily intimidating presence. Osgood looked almost frail beside him, but I happened to know that Osgood was tough as rawhide and, unlike Ragnar, pretty cynically savvy about human nature. They made a great team, which was why I’d assigned them to the zoo, which had been something of a trouble spot ever since the festival had started. And I couldn’t help thinking how nice it was that volunteering for the festival was bringing together people who might otherwise have never met.

We went over to wish them a good morning and pass along a warning about the scavenger hunt.

“So keep your eyes open,” I said, when I’d explained the situation.

“We will.” Ragnar opened his eyes very wide as if to demonstrate that he understood. I never knew whether he was pulling my leg or not. He had only a faint Norwegian accent, and spoke good and sometimes curiously formal English, but sometimes he seemed to take everything anyone said quite literally. “These tourists are far more weird than I expected,” he added.


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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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