Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 8

 

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 scroll to the bottom of the blog where it says OLDER POSTS.
“Notice that it says ENTRANCE rather than WELCOME,” Skye snarled.  “Jail was nicer than this. I mean it. We kept the grounds tended and had a garden. This is a crime.
Kookie had started bobbing and ducking his head, while making little clicking noises with his beak. At least he was showing signs of life. I found that mildly comforting. The sliding doors opened with a wheezy hiss, revealing an industrial strength floor mat designed to keep you from slipping and sliding even in rainy weather.
The inside was actually…nice. The colors were a blue-gray, teal, and bright green. Soothing music played over a sound system. A low nap carpet with a pebble design led us in various directions. Dead ahead sat a white-washed gray reclaimed wood desk attended by a woman dressed in a long skirt with a vivid floral pattern, white blouse, and glasses. Her hair had been pulled back neatly into a cap, a sure sign she belonged to one of the more strict Fundamental Christian sects that make their home in Stuart and Hobe Sound.
“Hello. What a lovely bird! May I help you?” Getting gracefully to her feet, the woman extended a hand. “I’m Alyssa Cartwright, the receptionist. Do you have a family member here? Or are you inquiring about availability? How might I be of assistance?”
“Um,” I intended to answer quickly, but my eyes were drawn to the marvelous shape of the place. It was as if the architect had envisioned a hug, an embrace, because the wings of the building formed a large half-circle around a central courtyard. Broad expanses of glass windows overlooked the outdoors. Those expensive window shades, the kind that allow you to see out but can be darkened, covered the windows, blocking the glare. Rather than respond directly to Alyssa’s greeting, I hurried past her, through the clusters of furniture, and right up to the windows. There I pressed my face against the cool glass.
A sea of brown mud, decayed palm fronds, and torn up weeds provided the landscaping. Before I could open my mouth to protest, Skye had moved closer to the desk. Once there, she reached for Alyssa’s hand and gave it a friendly shake. “We’re here to see a friend, Helen Berger. This is her pet, Kookie.”
“Helen?” Kookie’s crest of feathers stood straight up. “Helen? Kookie loves you! Helen? Where is Helen? Hello???”
“My!” Alyssa’s hand flew to her mouth. “We don’t allow pets, but I can certainly see that this is an unusual situation.”
I hustled back to the desk. “This is NOT an unusual situation. This is a crime! How can you plonk people down in a setting like this? This is ugly. Horrible! If I had to look out on this mud puddle all day long, I’d curl up in a ball and cry. To think that people are paying good money for this…this warehouse! It’s a scam and you should be ashamed of yourself!”
I was so angry, so filled with indignation that I didn’t hear the clip-clap of high heels behind me. A gentle hand touched my elbow. I whirled around and faced a woman wearing an inexpensive but elegant navy suit and a pastel blue button-up blouse. “I’ll take it from here, Alyssa. I’m Greta Morgan, the administrator. And you are?”
“Cara Mia Delgatto and my friend Skye Blue. That’s Kookie. Helen Berger’s bird. We came to visit Helen.” I stuck my jaw out, hoping to look as determined as I felt. “And I won’t leave until we do.”
Greta Morgan nodded. Her eyes were brown with amber flecks and her hair a dishwater blonde. The laugh lines around her mouth suggested she was well into her fifties, but her classic features would allow her to age gracefully. She studied me as I gave her the once over. As I did, she softened her stance, whether instinctively or to put me at ease, I couldn’t tell.
“Of course, and so you shall. But first, could I get both of you a cup of tea? In my office? We can chat there. I’d love to hear more about Kookie, and about your involvement with Helen. I was under the impression she has no family.”
“That doesn’t mean no one cares about her,” I snapped.
Skye nudged me forward. “Sounds wonderful. Lead the way.”
I was still grumbling, but Alyssa leaned in and whispered, “Greta is wonderful. She’ll listen. Honest she will. That woman has the patience of a saint.”
~ To Be Continued ~
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Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 5

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 scroll to the bottom of the blog post and click on OLDER POST.

Skye was thrilled with Kookie. The minute she came through the front door, she raced over to see the bird, even though she was still wearing her server’s uniform from Pumpernickel’s. Usually Skye can’t wait to get out of the black slacks and white blouse. They are totally not her style.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” she gushed. “I didn’t realize he’d be a blue-eyed cockatoo. These are really, really rare. An endangered species or close to it.”

In response, Kookie eyed her warily. With a bit of coaxing, Skye was able to get the big white bird to step onto her outstretched finger. He stared at her, fluffed his feathers and wailed, “Helen? Kookie loves you!”

“Poor baby.” Skye brought him closer for a cuddle, and Kookie allowed her to rub her face against his chest. But he didn’t give her a kiss like he’d given Helen.

This love fest went on for half an hour. Finally, Skye let Kookie take his place back on his perch. “I’m going to run upstairs and get him grapes and carrots. He’ll love those.”

As she raced away, MJ shook her head at me. “I was wrong about what a cockatoo is worth. At least, I was wrong about what this one is worth.”

“Not as valuable as you thought, eh?” I chuckled.

“On the contrary. Much more valuable. A bird like Kookie would go for ten grand at least.”

I coughed. “Pardon? Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. He’s a blue-eyed cockatoo. That ring of bright blue around his eyes? It’s a telltale marker. That’s the clue I didn’t have.”

“Wow,” I said, channeling my friend Kiki Lowenstein.

“Should I start writing an ad for Kookie? Sid can put him up on Craigslist and some of the other sales sites.”

I thought about Skye’s reaction. She never asked me for anything. Lately she’d been kind of down because her relationship with Lou, a local detective, had hit a rough patch. “Not right now,” I said. Once the excitement of owning a big bird wore off, perhaps she’d be willing to trade the cockatoo for cash.

“Have it your way,” said MJ, with a shrug that told me she thought I was absolutely nuts.

A few days went by, and I came to agree with her. Although Skye was totally smitten with the bird, the cockatoo had not settled in. Hour after hour, he cried, “Helen? Kookie loves you!” He fixated on the front door, growing excited each time it opened and despondent when Helen did not magically appear. Worse yet, he had started to pluck out his own feathers. Each morning, I swept up a small pile from the floor around the cage.

“I’m really, really worried about him.” Skye started chewing a fingernail.

“I’ll call my friend Pete, the vet,” said MJ. “But you’re going to owe me, Skye, because Pete only wants to be re-paid by going on a date together. If I do this for you, you better come up with something really, really great to make it up to me.”

Skye nodded. “I will.”

~To Be Continued~

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Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 3

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1 and 2, scroll to the bottom of the blog post and click on OLDER POSTS.

A few days later, I was arranging a group of tin cans that Skye had turned into beautiful lanterns when a loud squawk scared the dickens out of me. My first thought was that a bird had somehow found its way into the store. But as I turned around, and as another squawk followed the first, I realized this must be a monster-sized avian to make such a loud racket.

Putting down my inventory clipboard, I scurried to the front of the store. There stood a small woman, caving in on herself, barely strong enough to support the magnificent white bird perched on her shoulder. Her skin was that ashy-gray color so common to people suffering from cancer, a symptom I knew all too well.

“Helen? Kookie loves you!” screamed the bird, leaning in to nuzzle the sagging skin on my guest’s face.

“And I love you, too, Kookie.” The woman lifted a knotted hand to stroke the bird’s belly.

This pleased the animal. He ruffled up his feathers, so that he was fully twice his size. Even from a distance, I could see his pupils dilate and contract with interest as he took in his new surroundings. A thin ring of bright blue was around each of his eyes, a lovely contrast to the stark white of his feathers.

“You must be Honora’s friend Helen,” I said. Usually I would extend my hand for a greeting, but my fear of birds made me jam all my digits into a pocket of my Lilly Pulitzer vintage skirt.

“Yes, dear, I am. Honora told me you agreed to give Kookie a home. His cage and his stand are in my car. Unfortunately, I had to have help loading them up. They’re rather heavy. I’m wondering if you’d be so good as to get them out for me?” The voice quivered with sadness, and correspondingly, a lump formed in my throat.

“One second.” I turned and walked to the back. “MJ? Could you come out here a minute? I need help.”

“What do you need?” MJ seemed a tad bit peeved to be taken away from her work. She’d been busy calling around trying to find a piece of wicker for a customer. But the irked expression softened when she caught sight of Helen and Kookie.

“We need to grab some things from Helen’s car.”

Although she’s shaped like a pinup girl, MJ is pretty strong. After taking the keys from Helen and assuring her that we’d be right back, my friend and I walked outside to where a long, white Cadillac sat pulled up at the curb. The car must have been fifteen years old. Maybe twenty. The inside was pristine, although it smelled a little like funky bird seed. Together MJ and I tackled moving the bird equipment. As we grunted, she said, “That’s one beautiful bird. You realize, don’t you, that birds like that sell for at least a grand. Maybe even two.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“No. I never joke about money. You should know that by now.”

That was true. I cleared my throat as we managed to extricate the cage from the back seat. “So, are you suggesting we sell the bird? After all, Helen told Honora that Kookie needs a new home. That doesn’t preclude us from finding him one with a loving family.”

“Actually, I think you’d get a lot more mileage out of displaying the bird,” said MJ as she started walking backwards with both hands on the bottom of the cage. “Think of it as a living display piece.”

“Right,” I groused. “One that poops all over my floor.”

~To Be Continued~