“I have some bad news,” I said to my groggy sister. It was early in Vegas, but I’d waited as long as I could before waking her up. I was babysitting her kids while she and her new husband were honeymooning.

Specific instructions had been left. Keep the door to her 8-year-old son’s room closed to avoid any cat-eats-gerbil drama.

“What happened?” she asked.

“I think Gerbie’s a goner.” I’d heard a crash and saw the cat fly down the stairs, something in its mouth. “The Habitrail’s on the floor. Empty.”

“Where’s the corpse?”

That was another problem. No evidence of the crime. The cat had hid her would-be lunch in the basement.

I was told, in no uncertain terms, rodent remains in the cellar were unacceptable. I had to find Gerbie, and then tell Max the news when he got home.

“I’m so not qualified for pre-teen grief counseling. Can’t I just go to Pet Smart and get a new one?”

“Nope. It only had half a tail. Even if you found one the right color and amputated, it wouldn’t heal in time.”

“I’m fucked.”

“Yup, but not as bad as Gerbie. Now get to work,” she said.