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THE DEATH TAX
S.A. Hogan, author
There's a new reason to fear April 15th. Dr. Kevin Cousey struggles to find a purpose in life after a prankster mangled his hand with an M-80 twenty years ago—costing him his career, his family, and nearly his life—committing himself to stopping the lethal hummingbird attacks that occur at Lake Tanaka, Missouri, every April 15th at 7:15 A.M. Cousey was the only one who reported the ongoing abuse of Millie Fremont, a 13-year-old French exchange student with a passion for hummingbirds, during her stay with John Galvin, a Navy diver-turned-corporate millionaire with a mysterious past. Millie disappeared on the violence-filled night of April 15th, an incident all on the lake couldn’t help but hear. The fact the attacks occur at 7:15—the year of St. Milburg's death—forms a link between Millie and the Patron Saint of Birds in Cousey's mind. Every morning on April 15th he watches as the hummingbirds descend upon the lake, forming a tornado around the swimming platform before attacking. Suspecting Millie’s body is buried beneath the platform, Cousey starts a scuba diving club as a way to catch Galvin. Enlisting the help of colorful local Buddy Maxwell, Cousey conducts a stakeout, catching Galvin with a body bag only to have him promptly dump it into the lake. Cousey hires club member Doris Kath, a professional diver and a lesbian survivor of male abuse, to dredge the lake. They find the body only to have the hummingbirds carry it away. Undeterred, Cousey sifts through the gravel the deputies have removed, finding a button and a tooth. He has Maxwell follow a trail of bodies from the hummingbirds that died carrying the bag into the woods. There they discover a shrine with a small skeleton missing its two front teeth. The tooth and some photos are enough to bust Galvin, but crooked police chief Larry MacEnerny tips him off. Galvin packs his bags for The Bahamas only to be killed by hummingbirds when he's trying to leave. The annual slaughter at the lake continues. Sensing its residents share a communal guilt, Pastor Eustace Baxter plans an all-night tent revival starting on midnight of April 14th. Meanwhile Cousey visits Millie's shrine with Maxwell and local newspaper editor Paul Mahr, imploring her not to let the hummingbirds kill children. The hummingbirds arrive on schedule, killing a dozen lake residents at the revival and maiming those who get in their way. As April 15th approaches the following year, Millie tells Cousey in a dream that he must sacrifice himself in order to save the lake. On the morning of the 15th Cousey strips down to a pair of shorts, takes Mahr and his video cam out to the platform, and douses himself with sugar water. Instead of killing him the hummingbirds lick the nectar off him. For the first time in thirteen years they fly away without killing anyone, accompanied by Millie's laughter that only Cousey can hear. Mahr, who lost his job over the story he wrote about the revival, turns the video into a documentary and, with Cousey's blessing, sells it to National Geographic and becomes a celebrity. Tiring of his own celebrity and still searching for a purpose in life, Cousey joins Doctors Without Borders in Ghana, West Africa. There he meets a 12-year-old girl who can control birds, one he believes is Millie Fremont reincarnated. Her fierce old grandmama assures him she will take the manhood of anyone who tries to take her before marriage, and Cousey is finally at peace. -30-

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