TITLE: Big Cat Country
A week after discovering the body of a co-worker at the big cat sanctuary where she volunteers, Madeline answers a knock at her door.
“I’m Artie Tremble, North State Insurance,” he said, handing me a card and grinning like a giddy possum.
“I have insurance,” I said, returning the card.
“I’m not selling, I’m investigating Wyatt Drinkwater’s death. We have to tie up loose ends before paying his life insurance benefit—may I come in?”
I poured lemonade as Artie settled into the sofa, still grinning. “This is exciting, my first claims investigation,” he said. “I’ve been stuck in a cubicle for months, doing database searches and ordering death certificates.” He opened a binder. “Now, did the body have any unusual marks? Scars or tattoos?”
“His throat was torn open, if that counts,” I said.
“Sure does. Attacked by an escaped tiger? Bingo, accidental death.”
“That cat didn’t escape. The pen’s fence was cut. We can’t figure out what Wyatt was doing, whether he was drunk, or trying to steal …”
Artie’s glass stopped half-way to his mouth. “Steal? As in, theft?”
“No. I mean, I don’t think so. Shouldn’t you talk to the police? I’m just throwing out wild ideas.”
Artie started writing that particular wild idea in his notebook.
“Does it matter? Wyatt’s still dead.”
“Accidental death pays double. Dying while committing a crime? Pays nothing. It’s the difference between a million bucks and zip-a-dee-doo-dah.” He stopped writing and looked up. “Um, the million dollars? That’s theoretical, of course. Not saying it’s what his policy is worth.”