Authors: A.J. Lape
TABLE OF CONTENTS
THE DARCY WALKER SERIES
A. J. LAPE
No Brainer: The Darcy Walker Series, Book Two
Copyright © 2013 by A. J. Lape. All rights reserved.
First Kindle Edition: May 2013
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.
This book is dedicated to the little guy that has a dream. You only live once … my wish is that you grab onto the bucking horns of life and hold on until that bull is yours.
A special thank you to my husband, Dean, and daughters, Zoe and Mackie, for happily welcoming Darcy Walker into our family; my parents for drilling into my head that anything is possible; my beta readers—Heather Mcguire, Sandra Ruiter, Joyce Stevens, Mom & Dad, and Brianne Whitmire for helping me polish things up; my critique partner, Debbie Brooks, for the many phone calls and plot “what if” conversations; LaDonna Haddock Thompson for giving me the scoop on detective life; CR Everett, Heather Mcguire, Dodie Miracle, and Kellie Mounce for proofreading; Mary-Nancy Smith, for being a joy and crutch to lean on through every phase of the process; the ’68 Zombie Comics duo of Mark Kidwell and Jay Fotos for another one-of-a-kind cover; my husband for designing the cover-wrap. Even if you didn’t know how to do something, you cared enough to learn; Streetlight Graphics because you’re lifesavers and some of the nicest folks I’ve met; Jeri Conner, Brooke Freiberger, and Justin Strasser for giving me the scoop on O-Town. Kim Shaw for being my author Valentine (I hope you like your character Spike); my sweet Justine Littleton for keeping Darcy alive on FB, the best-dressed fictional character ever, and for organizing my first blog tour; the AJ Lape Street Team, YA Ninjas, and Secret Sisters for the “shares” and support; and finally to my fans, FB friends, bloggers, reviewers, and twitter-verse who have supported me—or pointed me in the right direction when I looked like a headless chicken—words can’t express how you’ve made Darcyville feel welcome.
1. COLD-BLOODED KILLERS
My cell is cold and damp and the overwhelming taste of mold feels like a man’s hands squeezing around my throat. It’s hard to breathe sometimes—being alone like this—but the squeaking of the rats in the walls is the only thing that keeps me alive. I had a pet rat once. His name was Reaper. He used to sleep with me and was extremely smart and adaptable. I went away for a week, and my family forgot to feed him. I guess he got hungry because he crawled out of his cage and looked for dinner in my little brother’s crib. It wasn’t Reaper’s fault. He was driven by circumstance … just like me.
Y BREATHING HITCHED IN MY
chest as I quickly stuffed the letter back inside the Lucasville Prison envelope. This wasn’t the time to dissect my fifth correspondence from a cold-blooded killer. Eddie Lopez, who’d attempted to murder me last spring, had aspirations of making me her jailhouse pen pal. I’m not sure why I read her letters, but even with several life-in-prison sentences, she still scared the bejeezus out of me. Why? I’d come to believe she was part cockroach and would survive a nuclear war. She’d been whisked into the back of an ambulance with various tubes going into her body, presumably bound for the graveyard.
Somehow, she’d survived.
All I knew was, I’d always be watching my back, death row or not.
I briefly buried my face in my hands, my breath choking me with the memory. Outrunning a murderer wasn’t something you filed away as the forgettable—you simply prayed your subconscious learned to deal. Unfortunately, I’d just encountered another crime scene that I’d have to process in the recesses of my mind.
The scene looked like any other. Everything remained a clue until proven otherwise, but things were just as I’d left them. The only items in my room out of place were two dead bodies splayed across the carpet. Rigor mortis had already set in—still I fumbled helplessly with the body parts and tried to piece them back together. After five heart-pounding minutes, I realized I couldn’t resuscitate or sew back together what had been a catastrophic event.
Death was final. I knew that better than anyone did.
I’m Darcy Walker, and I fear death will always follow me. I’d been here before—when I was too young to understand—and it sucked just like the previous time. I grew up feeling responsible for things that technically weren’t my fault, and now Fate had given me something else I could add to the list.
Never try to outrun Fate
, I told myself.
It had a way of letting you know it had plans you couldn’t change.
Last Christmas I received my first pet, a goldfish, I’d named George Washington. Now, in August, I’d endured the deaths of Presidents Washington through Coolidge. Obviously, I lacked in the maternal department. In one of my infamous impulse purchases, I bought two hermit crabs yesterday that I named Frick and Frack. Well, something happened in the world of Frick and Frack because I’d just discovered their mutilated corpses in my bedroom, next to the bloody mouth of my BFF, Justice’s black gerbil.
Lesson of the day? Don’t gerbil-sit again … ever.
MacArthur (the gerbil, AKA crab murderer), in my meek forensic opinion, had to be the culprit. Granted, I couldn’t justify how two crabs crawled out of a virtually smooth, glass bowl, but MacArthur’s two front teeth had no doubt cracked open their shells. I suppose on some level I should be impressed, but the dismembered claws were a grisly visual too hard to erase. Glancing at the blood-splattered gerbil curled peacefully in a ball, I concluded the little bugger was psycho.
While my father and I dropped the crab guts into a Diamond matchbox, I willed my hands to stop shaking as I looked into the round empty fishbowl they’d called home. A crucifix hung above it that my Nanny placed there when Thomas Jefferson died.
“Help me, Jesus,” was all I could mutter.
“Are you okay?” my dad grumbled.
Okay? I had one foot in heck and the other in what-the-freak just happened. “Not really,” I answered.
“Did you starve them?”
“Place them between the pages of a book and jump your godforsaken body all over them?” I gave him a negative nod as I talked myself out of hyperventilating. “Well, I’m tapped out,” he grunted. “Do you have any theories?”
“No, Murphy. I’m theorizing nothing.”
My word, if I told him my suspicions about MacArthur, Justice would be looking for a new pet.
My father and I’d been on a first name basis since I’d turned six months old. Murphy stood 6’2” with wavy, chestnut brown hair, and deep-set dark, chocolate eyes. His cheekbones were high and chiseled, perched on a flawless angular face except for a scar over his left eye and a crooked nose. To me, they added character; they made him ruggedly real. What didn’t make him seem real, however, were his eyes. On a bad day, they looked cold-blooded, callous, and uncaring. On good days, they screamed to run to his arms.
For all intents and purposes, he reeked of reformed bad-boy … a
ard. In Darcyspeak, a
ard’s the type to take a woman’s heart, rip it out of her chest, then move onto another girl while she’s lying there dying.
Thank God, he’d mellowed and sworn off women.
Today was Friday, and I hadn’t seen him in two weeks. Tomorrow I’d be flying to Florida, and needless to say, happiness was eluding him. Add the deaths of my hermit crabs, and he looked like a block of C4 ready to blow.
“I missed you, kid,” he grumbled as we made our way downstairs. “And now you’re going away again. This will be four weeks total where your father doesn’t get to see you. That might be a first.”
“After two weeks with Winston, I
Murphy gave me his best you’re-not-kidding look. Winston sired my father—they loved one another and vice versa—but let’s be real, they loved best from afar. My little sister and I had recently returned from our annual vacation at Grandpa Winston’s farm in Kentucky. We normally crossed the border the first two weeks in July, but we delayed our trip while he participated in a much-hyped Civil War Reenactment. We all knew how the war ended, but Winston proudly represented a group of men that reenacted it for those that failed History class.
After two weeks, I’d hit my limit on his favorite subject: premarital sex. I’d never had a boyfriend and was nearing sixteen. It’s safe to say my virtue remained as intact as the day I popped out of the womb.
I attempted to lighten the mood. “We talked about boys again.
,” I paused, laughing naughtily, “guess what I learned?”
Predictably, Murphy bristled up. “This is America, kid, and you have the right to be stupid, but now’s not the time for you to exercise your right.”
Stupid’s my favorite word. It could cover all parts of speech and explain all sorts of behavior. Most might bristle at the word, but according to Murphy (and I had to agree),
Stupid’s a frame of mind. It’s not an indicator of intelligence.
Unfortunately, my frame of mind jumped back on the Frick and Frack death wagon as soon as we hit the kitchen. “Maybe they died in some sort of weird copulation ceremony,” I muttered. “You know, when they were trying to have baby crabs.” Nothing surprised me anymore, and I didn’t know much about the reproductive habits of hermit crabs anyway. All Murphy told me about the opposite sex was that I’d pee the bed if I allowed someone to kiss me before the wedding night.
I longed to pee the bed … I really, really did.
A sigh left his chest. “Can the potty mouth, kid. Your conversations always start in ornery then nosedive into vulgar.”
I didn’t use the traditional four-lettered words, but I did have the urge to say things that good breeding said were for behind closed doors conversations only. Words like iniquity engineer represented sinners,
ard described the bad-boys, habaneros meant the hooters, and the boom boom, hoo-hah was the butt. And to tag a line on all the other sinful behavior I didn’t know the meanings of, in the words of Otis Day, I assigned the term shama lama, ding-dong.
Murphy scratched the back of his neck, glanced at the box in his hand, and then set the remains on the kitchen countertop with a sigh. He collapsed back onto the
brown leather couch in his normal dad attire: white golf shirt, navy shorts, and grass-stained socks. “Give me the 411,” he muttered, changing the subject.
Murphy deliberately changed topics—something he always did when relationships, or God forbid, death was on the docket.