No Brainer ( The Darcy Walker Series #2) (6 page)

Someone tapped me on the head. “Hello, trouble,” they said. “It’s been awhile.”

Sweet Mother of God—he didn’t know, did he?

Glancing up with guilt all over my face, I stared into the face of Lincoln Taylor.
. If Colton reminded me of Zeus, then Lincoln had to be God Almighty. And like the god of all gods, he held judgment in his hands. Although the three had the same mugs, Lincoln sported brown hair … and was leaner and
. He met his wife when a thug robbed her family’s bakery in downtown Los Angeles. According to urban legend, within three days, he hauled the thief in hogtied and circling the drain, belting out an apology to all Greeks of the world. You had to applaud the man; he let the crook keep his cojones.

To be a good cop, you had to have a level head. Lincoln was polished, adept, and unbelievably personable, but he spent more time watching than talking. Professionally, he had no weakness. Personally, his flaw included females. The older brother to five sisters, when he had Colton first, they closed the factory and called it a day. But when Colton turned nineteen, an “oops” baby came along named Willow. Willow was Lincoln’s greatest passion, but she was wild and free and refused to be tamed. She’d been the face of
Go Glam!
Cosmetics since age four. Colton acted as her agent, and that became the catalyst that catapulted him into the youngest vice president in the history of the company. In fact,
Go Glam!
is headquartered in Cincinnati, and that’s the reason Colton left his LA roots behind.

Wearing khaki shorts, a plain T, and packing a GLOCK 9mm semi-automatic underneath his belt, Lincoln looked like he was on the tail end of the longest 24-hour period on record. His eyes were hooded and a vertical frown line marked the space between them. He kicked Colton’s chair in greeting, but Colton grunted and kept typing.

Lincoln didn’t appear that anything serious played at his mind (other than staying awake), so I decided not to borrow trouble. Besides, I needed Colton’s laptop, and getting my hands on it before takeoff was paramount. I needed to flirt with Troy, and by God, Troy needed to flirt with Ms. Ovaries.

Lincoln punched Dylan’s shoulder. “Do you have something of mine, boy?”

Dylan grinned, countering, “Do you have something of mine?”

A testosterone-induced stare down began where they both tried to decide who had the bigger gonads. Lincoln raised a brow; Dylan raised two. Lincoln puffed out his chest; Dylan inflated his entire body then poked a finger in Lincoln’s sternum. After a few more breaths of king-of-the-mountain, Lincoln threw his head back, laughing. “You’re such a cocky little kid, but I love you, son,” he murmured. “My presence is required at a party, so we’d better switch devices unless you’re prepared to dance with the devil.”

“I want to dance with the devil,” I shrugged, smacking my lips.

As usual, they looked at me like I was a buffoon.

Thing was, Lincoln usually brought a party with him. Last year, he talked someone through a hostage situation while sitting on the patio. Some thief said he’d only speak to Lincoln, and while throngs of LA’s finest had him cornered in a convenience store, Lincoln promised him everything from no jail time to the secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I’m not sure he had a chance of getting what he wanted, but Lincoln had this voice … a
mesmerizing seduction ...
and you found yourself doing things even if your gut told you it wasn’t safe.

“Shouldn’t you retire soon?” Dylan joked.

“Ten more years or so.”

“You’ll be past 70,” Dylan laughed.

“I’ve always been an overachiever,” Lincoln quipped.

When Dylan’s grandmother, Alexandra, boarded, Dylan pushed out of his seat to hug her, “Kalimera, YaYa.”

“Kalimera, Dylan,” she smiled. She loved it when he addressed her in Greek. “YaYa” meant grandma in Greek, and “Kalimera” said good morning. The two words I knew—other than the forbidden curse words, I smiled to myself.

Wearing an emerald green sundress, Alexandra pawed at your senses. She oozed black-eyed passion on a bilingual smart mouth that made her the biggest personality in the room; her stature, however, was itty-bitty.

“Where are Mom and Sydney?” Dylan asked her.

Her lips curled. “Sydney decided to pack some extra bags.”

“Oh, God,” Dylan prayed. “The plane will never make it off the ground.”

I had to agree. Sydney packing light included two garment bags, a Louis Vuitton trunk, and four pieces of matching luggage. Anything more would land us at the bottom of the Ohio River.

“Plus,” she reluctantly laughed, “she’s breaking up with her boyfriend over the phone.”

Dylan rolled his eyes, sitting back down. “Classic Sydney,” he groaned, “the love ’em and leave ’em type.”

“When’s Willow joining us, Alexandra?” Lincoln grumbled.

She touched his arm. “She’s wrapping up some business. In a few days, Lincoln.”

“I’ve heard that before,” he bit out. Like her brother, Willow was an entrepreneur. She declared herself independent at age 16 to model in Europe, and as far as I knew, her license picture simply said “Willow.” And that made Lincoln very, very …
I really didn’t know
that made him, but let’s just say the definition blinked in all-caps, boldfaced, and underscored.

He took his gun out of the waistband of his pants, double-checking the safety. I’m not sure whom he thought he needed to shoot on this flight, but the man always liked to be prepared. He’d nicknamed his gun “Jackal,” the moniker he’d branded his son with during his teen years. A jackal stirred up game for lions. Apparently, Colton occasionally performed that feat for Lincoln before arrests.

An aura of calm fell over Dylan’s father as he struck the “send” key on his last email. If I
didn’t strike now, no way would I hit gold. Leaning over, I lightly tugged on his hand, trying to look doe-eyed innocent.

I almost laughed … me and doe-eyed … crazy thought.

“Can I use your laptop for a second to send an email?” I blinked.
To troyoncrime
, I mumbled in my head.

A blissful smile played at his lips. “Keep it dear, I’m done for two weeks. I intend on doing absolutely
. I want no fires to put out, and frankly, zero excitement.”

No excitement for me resembled a forced hunger strike. You couldn’t survive on what nature deemed essential. “Sounds great,” I lied.

He slid it across the tray table then turned and pummeled his father.

I quickly logged onto my account and sent an email to Marjorie that said to be good, mind her manners, and that nudity was on an as-needed-basis only. Then I constructed a new email account under Jester.
Jester from Jesterville
, to be exact. Once I was up and running, I looked at the clock and realized the time said 7:55AM—only five minutes to unearth potential clues. Troy claimed he loved the ladies, so perhaps it’d be as simple as getting my flirt on and wowing him with my bad-girlitude. I shot out an email in hopes we could talk real-time.

August 10, 07:55AM
Jester from Jesterville
Cisco Medina
Hey, Troy,
Are you there? I have information on Cisco Medina.

Feeling a set of eyes tunnel through me, my head nervously shot over to Dylan. His advice was shrewd, careful, and always with a desired end. In other words, he’d tell me I was headed to sin-city. I had to watch myself. He had this guiding light, guru, mystic quality that sometimes killed my buzz.

He narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Why all the smiles?”

More teeth, Walker. More teeth … more teeth … more teeth.

“Just excited,” I shrugged, smiling sunnily.

“Don’t flash those pearly whites at me,” Dylan smirked, pausing to rub his chest. “You know that breaks my heart.”

Animated laughter from the front of the cabin alerted me that Susan and Sydney Taylor had stepped onboard. Colton frowned deeply, followed by a sharp groan. Several minutes late into his vacation, he acted as though he wanted to skin their hides, hang them up, and beat them like a piñata. But all it took was a smile of atonement, and his face lit up like a Christmas tree.

Ugh, happily married people.

Sometimes it gave me hope; sometimes it reminded me what I didn’t have at home.

Dylan’s mother glided in with her hair in a smooth ponytail wearing a white linen skirt, matching sleeveless blouse, and brown leather strappy heels. The weight of the gold adorning her body might’ve been a third of her total weight, but then again, she was born to wear nice things. An inch shorter than me, she was a debutante sorority girl that fell for a middleclass boy. Translation? She went gaga for Colton’s body.

“Sorry, Colt,” she cooed to her husband, bending down to kiss him. “Sydney was tidying up some loose ends.”

Dylan called his older sister, Sydney, the black widow. She lured boys into her web then killed them before they could crawl out of the red hourglass trance. I hadn’t met this guy, but it remained just as well. I tried not to get attached to people in her life … neater that way.

You couldn’t deny the allure. At 5’7”, she weighed next to nothing, with the delicate face of her mother and dark coloring of her father. Like the black widow, she sported an hourglass shape with a swayback that tipped her derriere out so far it practically hit her in the back of the head. On top of that, she had a morning voice that provided bedroom sultriness 24/7. Trouble was, I think it gave guys ideas.

Poured into a red miniskirt, matching tank and heels, she carried a bag that cost more than Murphy’s monthly mortgage. She gently yanked on my hair then stopped obediently in front of her father.

I stared at the computer screen … zippo.
Thumping my nails on the table, I sang the ABC Song twice, rapped the Pledge to Allegiance, debated my cholesterol level, and before I knew it, voilà an email was returned.

No waaaaaay.
That meant my sins were meant-to-be, right?

August 10, 08:02AM
Jester from Jesterville
Troyoncrime, The Orlando Sentinel
Cisco Medina
Are you okay? Is it Lola? Girl, that’s where the problem is. Let’s get together.
Troy Brown
Man worried about jesters

I gulped, swallowed some gastric juices, and thankfully passed gas as a burp. I’d just struck it rich and barely lifted a finger. Lola Medina—as well as Cisco’s father—had been cleared according to yesterday’s paper, but what specifically had transpired in Lola’s world that left Troy suspicious? If anything, Troy gave me a starting place. Find Lola Medina, find clue number one.

You’re playing with fire
, I said to myself.
You like the burn
, my alter ego countered.

That’s the way I made decisions. An angel lived on one shoulder, the devil on the other. Unfortunately, that little devil had too big of a say-so—the main reason I traveled the short road to Hades.

I keyboarded a simple, “Yes.”

And waited.

Annnd waited.

Annnnnnnnd … waited.

Rapping my fingers on the keyboard, I deliberated what Troy had seen or heard that tipped him off to a less than honest mother. Nervousness? Lack of nervousness? Sketchy story? Rehearsed answers?

Jittery from head to toe, I plucked Colton’s ink pen out from his ear, then rocked back and forth, and inked the words, “The truth shall set you free” on my left palm. Next, I gnawed off the pinky nail on my right hand. Finally, Colton’s laptop chimed again.

August 10, 08:07AM
Jester from Jesterville
Troyoncrime, The Orlando Sentinel
Cisco Medina
Contact me at 407-555-1234 or via email. Be careful.
Many wondering why Ms. Ovaries is masquerading as Jester

I sucked in a sharp breath … I thought I’d been subtle. Thing was, Ms. Ovaries didn’t know whose fist to dodge first. I erased the history of my transgressions then settled in as Cody lifted us to a cruising altitude of 38,000 feet. Right when I prematurely unbuckled, a big bump sent me slamming chest-first into the tray table.

“Oh, God,” Colton prayed, suddenly nervous about the turbulence. “Are you all right, dear?”

“I’m good,” I mumbled, but my ribs weren’t, and chances were Divine Discipline had come into play. “I just need to relax.”

“What do you do to relax at home?” he muttered offhandedly.

“Sometimes I go outside and shoot the squirrels. Just depends.”

He attempted a laugh, but I feared he was moments from a complete psychotic episode. For an international businessman, air travel packed some major fear factor for Colton. Evidently, Pegasus almost crashed once, and he hadn’t found Xanadu since.

When the 12,000-pound plane jumped forward again, Colton cursed under his breath—clearly needing his mommy. If I had a Marlboro, I’d smoke it. I glanced over to my soulmate. Dylan sat tranquil—reading
Sports Illustrated
—not scared poopless like his lying best friend. “Ah, Darc,” he sighed, closing up the magazine, “don’t be scared.”

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