We knew something was wrong when Mom opened the door and reeled back, hand over her mouth. A man identical to Daddy stepped into the living room. His hands were out. He wore wood-soled work boots and a thigh-length kimono with no belt.

“Really? Really, Piers?” Mom said.

“What? What?” The man turned to Croesus and me. I backed away, and Croesus got ready to pinch his oxygen tube and knock himself out.

“Oh! I beg your pardon,” the man said. He circled his arms once, and pulled something invisible apart with his fingertips. Then his hands dropped and his kimono closed, and the tension ebbed from the room. “I was still performing my Halo of Revulsion. I had a bit of trouble with some truckers at a rest stop and had to pull back the curtains in their minds. I did not mean to drive you from my embrace.” He sounded stiff and formal, like he was putting on a voice. He waited uncomfortably.

I stared, slowly remembering an uncle. Being the youngest, I remembered the least about when Daddy’s family stopped visiting. Croesus remembered him better, and shook his head.

“Toolkit, bring the cleaver from the kitchen,” he said. “The one we use for intruders.”

“Intruder? I am your Uncle Piers!” His hands spread again, which threatened to reopen his kimono. “You must be my nephew. The dying one, right? You’re dying?”

Croesus gave him a stony look. “Not fast enough.”

“You can now celebrate!” Uncle Piers swooped in and took Croesus by the cheeks. “You have met me. Before you die, you have met me!”

He looked so much like Daddy I wanted to hug him, stilted voice and all. I worried that he would sense this, and carefully made my face go blank. Mom approached, eyes down, and wrapped one of Daddy’s ties around Uncle Piers’s waist. Uncle Piers said, “Mmm. Schermer is in this necktie. Nice choice, Mandy. Flavorful.”

“Piers, are you sure you can do this?” she asked softly. “Can you hold up your side of the plan?”

“Of course! I raced down here for no other reason. Also, my ducks are in your garage.”

… continued in the book