No Brainer ( The Darcy Walker Series #2) (12 page)

Herbie practically frothed at the moth, his double chin jiggling like a gelatin mold. “Gertrude came home and found a man floating facedown in her pool. He was blue. Dead. Wrinkled like a darn raisin. End of story.”

Huh. “Did she know him?”

“Never seen him before.”

“A man was with her as she talked to the coroner and detectives? What’s his name?”

“New boyfriend, I’ve never met ’im. I invited both of ’em over, but Gertrude was so shook up that she took a pass.”

That would suffice for now, but prudence said I needed to get the scoop on Cisco Medina’s disappearance before the hometown fuzz arrived. “Herbie, what’s the deal with Cisco Medina?”

As expected, Herbie knew exactly whom I referred to and gave me the dark, sordid details. His own version included child trafficking, devil worshipping grandparents, holes in the ozone layer, and what he feared included alien abduction.

“Did ye know there’s a trust in his name that funds private investigators?” he said proudly. “I give ’em $10 Gs a month.”

Ten thousand
, I gulped? “That’s pretty steep.”

“If we can git that little boy back from the aliens, it’ll all be worth it.”

I guess he had a point. “Did you know him personally?”

He downed the last of his Red Cream Soda. “Not real well. Ye should talk to Kyd. He’s a friend with his daddy, Hank. Hank works in the kitchen at the Club.”

Well, well, well, clue number one said the mother had something to hide. Clue number two washed dishes in the clubhouse. It’s times like these I took my cue from the universe that my bad behavior was called for. Maybe that’s the way I justified my actions, but hey, to be successful at times you had to kill your conscience.

Herbie took a long whiff of air. “Why looky here,” he grinned. “Minda Sue’s arrived. She took a little extra time to get dolled up. I kin smell her.”

I drew in the aroma, almost barfing up my intestines. “What’s she wearing?” I coughed.

“Chanel Number Five, Beautiful, Clive Christian Number One, and good old-fashioned Timeless from Avon. She never can decide so she wears ’em all. Don’t she smell like sweet tea and pralines?”

I had visions of a funeral home crossed with fabric softener and mossy wheat field. I coughed again, “It’s definitely unique.”

“Well,
she’s
unique. Minda Sue won Miss Congeniality in the Yambilee Festival. She smiled and all I saw was movie star.”

All
I
saw was silicone: big boobs, big butt, big hair, and whatever junk they sucked out of her trunk I think they shoved into Herbie’s. She basically had the body of a well-endowed 18-year-old with the face of a woman stuck in a wind tunnel. Minda Sue was clothed in head-to-toe Chanel, wearing a white sheath dress with two little “Cs” on the front pockets. She’d paired it with black flats that appeared two sizes, too small and a diamond necklace that had
Herbie’s
written out in cursive.

Classy … all the way around.

“Well, I do declare,” Minda Sue greeted. “It’s none other than Miss Darcy Walker herself. Kyd’s in
love
, and he said ye was single. Would ye like to go out on a date?”

Yikes. Talk about your forward momma. This felt like the Louisiana Purchase.

 

8. BACKUP PLAN

“K
YD’S MY BLOOD BROTHER,”
I
attempted to explain. “I don’t date brothers.”

Minda Sue’s face filled with confusion. My guess was her brain got zapped along with her true hair color. Either that, or my lexicon of norm needed a serious overhaul.

“Come on,” she smiled, “let’s talk while ye eat.”

Linking her arm in mine, we ambled to yet another food station. Seafood and hot sausage po’ boy sandwiches were made to order, meatballs and green beans simmered high, and mac & cheese bubbled next to a fruit salad and fries. I wanted to take my tongue and lap it across the table like a dog.

Shocking that I located some self-control.

Picking up a sausage po’ boy from a silver tray, I globbed some macaroni on my plate and grabbed four meatballs, plopping one in my mouth with a toothpick. This happened to be one of those times it proved best to leave me at home. If I didn’t cause the catastrophe, I somehow attracted one.

Minda Sue bent over for a napkin, tipped my plate with her boobs, causing a meatball to tumble down my neck, and somehow work its way inside my bra. As everyone let out a collective gasp, Minda Sue dabbed my chest; Herbie fondled my chest. I danced a little jig until it rolled down my stomach and onto the floor. That’s what happened when you didn’t have cleavage, folks. The floor was a straight shot.

“I’m sorry, Darcy!” she shrieked.

“That’s okay,” I shrugged. Then I added, “Nice boobs.” I mentally smacked my own mouth. Please, tell me I didn’t say that out loud. When Herbie’s chest puffed out with pride, that pretty much told me I had, and he was thrilled with the upgrade.

Lifting my shirt to clean my stomach, Herbie knocked my hand out of the way and spit on his napkin, rubbing in a wide-eyed oblivion across my abs. One would think I’d feel violated—and perhaps that was a testament to misshapen morals—instead, I had an overwhelming need to laugh.

Minda Sue twirled toward her husband. “Where’s Oinky?” she gasped, looking at the meatball between my feet.

Herbie whistled and out from a white pet door cut into the side of the house toddled a gray and black pot-bellied pig. Grunting his way over, he gobbled up the meatball.

Oinky was domesticated, but his DNA suggested warthog. You know how they say you choose a pet that resembles you? Herbie either adhered to that rule or exercised it subconsciously … they looked like twin pygmies. Both were dark-skinned, short with squatty, little legs, and hairs you could braid, hanging from their schnozz.

After Oinky’s tongue took a few swipes at my toes, he snorted and fell over to his side with a tooting thonk. Herbie quickly set him aright as he grunted back through the door.

“You’ve got to excuse, Oinky,” Herbie laughed, embarrassed. “He’s got the vapors.”

What did I care, I had a case of Darcy’s-dead-meat coming my way.

Minda Sue suddenly got that pistol-wielding momma face again. “Where were we?”

Herbie slapped me on the back. “Darcy was tellin’ us why she cain’t date Kyd.”

Minda Sue tried to frown, but the Botox made it impossible. “Why not? Kyd told me ye went through some ritual that involved a chicken, but it didn’t involve real blood. That means you’re good to date. Right?”

I nibbled on my sausage po’ boy, attempting a response. “I suppose, but it still kinda feels like incest.”

Herbie snorted, gazing at me like I was an idiot. “You mean like kissin’ cousins?
All
cousins kiss. Ya just got to make sure it ain’t on the lips.”

I scratched my head, wondering if that was true.

“He also said ya do whatever Dylan tells ye,” Minda Sue interjected. “Is Dylan ye brother?”

I couldn’t help but sigh. “Dylan
won’t
be my brother, but I want him to be.”

“Well, would ye date Dylan?” she pushed.

“No.”
Possibly
, I thought. “He’s too
much
like a brother.” Although, he’d been acting sort of strange which I found kind of odd.

Minda Sue took one intimidating step closer, and my fear escalated to the highest level of somebody-kill-me-now. “Well, if he’s too much like a brother to date, then why don’t ye date a blood brother that ya barely know? That seems like Destiny.”

Now, I was confused because it sort of made sense.

Herbie shook his head adamantly as he fingered a meatball off my plate. “But if they’re related, then they cain’t date,” he gruffed. “I know some of that stuff still flies but not with me. I suppose if they’re fourth, fifth, or sixth cousins that don’t really count. The royals roll that way in England.”

All I’d wanted was to gossip about Orlando; now, I wondered if Murphy had made me a dowry.

Minda Sue stomped her black leather flat onto the patio. “But they’re not cousins, Herbie. They’re brothers even though Darcy’s a girl.”

“No,” I giggled. “I’m the godfather.”

Herbie grunted as a nearby server placed gravied fries onto his plate. “Well, that changes evra-thin’. That’s a vertical family tree. We ain’t doin’ no one-branch family tree, Minda Sue.” Suddenly, I had an eeeuw moment but let it pass. “Tell me where your kin’s from, Darcy. I’ve got to make sure we’re only cousins because this brother and father stuff could be a deal breaker.”

I scooped up some macaroni and tried not to laugh. Good God, I loved these people. “I’m a Cincinnati native. Word on the street says we’re from the Walker line that came from Great Britain. Somewhere along the trail, we mixed blood with German and Scottish ancestors. My grandfather claims one of our relatives was on the Mayflower.”

Herbie’s eyes dilated tenfold. “
The
Mayflower?”

“Plymouth Rock,” I confirmed.

He elbowed his wife in the ribs. “Well, that’s top shelf, Minda Sue. Kyd deserves top shelf.”

Both of them beamed like they’d hit the jackpot all over again. Grandpa Winston somehow scored the manifest. I’m not sure how, but at least it boasted a good story on family history day. Evidently, my great, great—
however
many
greats
—grandmother fell in love with a Cherokee Indian scout and married him. One of their offspring hooked up with a Walker along the marital trail. So my identity confusion was something I was born into in spite of my “dark walker” name.

True to the melting pot, my family was the Chergerbritishscotch—the mutts that sounded like a mixed drink with whiskey.

“So you’re a mongrel?” Herbie asked.

“A mutt,” I munched.

“The best coonhound I ever had mixed blood with a toy poodle. It made for a weird bark and hairy bottom, but that mutt was good in the hunt.”

I reached up and smacked him a high five.

“I believe the correct word is multicultural,” Minda Sue said snootily. “Turn around, Darcy.”

I had no idea why she requested but provided a slow revolutionary turn anyway.

Minda Sue gave Herbie another expressionless face. “She don’t have birthin’ hips, Herbie.”

I swallowed hard. Dear God, I didn’t want to birth
anything
.

“You had
great
birthing hips, Minda Sue,” Herbie bragged. Minda Sue’s hips were three feet wide with a four-figure lipo job. No doubt, she could’ve birthed a cow.

“It don’t feel right, Herbie. Kyd weighed 13 pounds. You’ve got to be able to push that out, and that ain’t right to do to a young girl.”

I choked on my last meatball as Herbie pounded on my back. It popped out and bounced three times before landing in front of the rhythm section.

I coughed, “Then I’m not a good purchase. Kyd deserves the best, so just keep me as your backup plan.”

The Knobleckers pondered my lack of birthing equipment as Herbie ran a thick hand down my hip. “I don’t know Minda Sue. With legs like that, a baby could walk outta the womb. Let’s not count her out yit.” He waddled toward me. “Can we think about it?”

I tried to find a smile, but it lodged somewhere between 13 pounds and an incestuous relationship with my blood brother. “Sure,” I smiled sweetly. “We don’t want to rush into anything.”

The Knobleckers took one last gander at my legs and wandered over to their other guests. When I turned, I caught my reflection in the sliding glass doors. Casting back were Dylan and his father. Both were garbed in what I called look-at-my-six-pack-black. Black shorts, matching polos, and leather slides. The first had a disgruntled scowl; the second, a satisfied snicker.

Insert the fidgets. Lots of fidgets.

I slurped up a spoon of mac-and-cheese and traipsed over to join them, speculating whether Dylan had a gun.

Colton grinned, “We’ve stood behind you and listened to the majority of your conversation, dear. Work for me when you graduate. If you can maneuver dialogue around like that, then I’ll make you a millionaire by the time you’re 25.”

“Tough negotiations, huh?” I giggled.

“Extremely,” his father laughed.

“Hey, D,” I smiled.
Pray, Walker
.
For God’s sake, pray … pray … pray
. Dylan crossed his arms over his chest, stubborn as a freaking mule. “No hi?” I pouted.

Dylan’s voice went tight. “What are you up to? I can feel it in my bones the Darcy Boat is about to hit an iceberg.”

I scooped up more mac-and-cheese, offering it to him, which he not so politely ignored. “Whoa, back it up, Prince Charming,” I said. “This little Cinderella can fend for herself. And although that iceberg comment is degrading, I’m willing to overlook it if you’ll be my brother. Be my brother,” I winked, “and we’ll have no secrets.”

He rolled his eyes so high he saw his own brain.

Colton jabbed him in the side. “So my son won’t be your brother, eh?”

“Nope,” I munched, “and it hurts my feelings.”

“Exactly what’s the reasoning for hurting her feelings, son?” Colton acted like he was smiling inside. Dylan looked like he wanted to punch his smiler.

“I’d like to know that, too, D. What gives?”

Dylan eyed the crowd, searching for something to annihilate. He came off as primal, emotional, looking for a cave to crawl inside and growl. Something emanated from him that was carnal and all male; someone that protected what was his and got ticked off as heck when someone messed with it. I cocked my head in wonderment, realizing I was staring at my father. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to run away. Heck, I wanted to fall into his arms because I always knew what I’d be getting. A love that would forever be true—but a love that could steal your last breath.

Colton sighed deeply, shook his head with a frown, then located his wife and sauntered away.

“The last thing I’ll ever be is your
brother
, Darcy,” Dylan bit out. “We need to have a little talk.”

I inwardly shivered. “A walkie-talkie?”

Dylan’s eyes narrowed into beady, snake-like slits. “A walkie-talkie,” he repeated. A walkie-talkie was basically when Dylan forced me to listen to whatever he thought I needed to change in my life. The practice evolved from battery-powered walkie-talkies we had as children to the teenaged shut-up and listen.

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