Authors: A. J. Lape
Table of Contents
100 Proof Stud
The Darcy Walker Series
A. J. Lape
100 Proof Stud: The Darcy Walker Series, Book Three
Copyright © 2014 by A. J. Lape. All rights reserved.
First Kindle Edition: May 2014
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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.
To my readers…thank you for being patient; I would be nowhere without your loyalty.
Thank you, Lord, for your boundless mercies and grace and for always being faithful; to my family and friends for your love and encouragement when I got discouraged. Most notably authors Julie Cassar who hand-held me through a rough patch and CR Everett who always reminds me what Darcy would and would not do; my editing team of Jeff LaFerney, CR Everett, Debbie Brooks, Heather Mcguire, Justine Littleton, and Sheri Spell. Thank you for making me better; my Street Team (especially Justine Littleton and Heather Mcguire) for helping me keep Darcy’s name alive on social media; Lindsee Baez and Kelley Grealis for answering endless fraud questions and dumbing things down when my moron side emerged; my cover team at ’68 Zombie Comics for yet another one-of-a-kind cover that catches the spirit of the series; Marcy Rachel for coordinating the cover with a cover wrap that is gorgeous; CR Everett and Angela Pratt for naming the fictional band The Minstrel Cramps; and to the YA Ninjas, Secret Sisters, and bloggers for their friendship and social media shares.
1. Cruel & Unusual Punishment
o one’s perfect, but some
sure did appear to have the corner on the market.
In my meager sixteen years, it’s been my experience that even the “perfect” have secrets. But secrets suck. Secrets can kill.
…I should know.
My name’s Darcy Walker. I may not operate on perfection, but I did operate on a lot of secrets. Some were mine, some were others’, and some remained nameless until the nosy in me pieced them together. Maybe at one time I had a perfect life, but I felt like one of those little snow globes, and someone came along and shook things up. Things all of a sudden looked different;
I watched the hotdog on the greasy roller and wondered if I was bound for Hell…or a bullet.
It was Saturday night, a cold and blustery Cincinnati December, and I stood zombified in Belinski’s Bookstore. When I rolled into work this morning, a Plexiglas hotdog case sat on the checkout counter, revolving with dogs as the freebie of the day if you purchased a book. Finally, a marketing ploy I could appreciate. So I purchased a book for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
What can I say…my palate wasn’t all that sophisticated.
Right now, I was “in a period of reflection.” A fancy way for saying, “grounded.” I’d done naughty things like broken curfews, hotwired a car, and roamed my neighborhood after hours, spying on my insanely weird neighbors. In Darcyville, those were benign incidents, but my father thought they warranted a two-week sabbatical on anything fun.
Murphy is my father, and I’d addressed him by his first name since I turned six months old. Crazy? Sure. But we did crazy like Al-Qaeda did terrorism.
It was a congenital defect.
Example? When he found me gallivanting at midnight, he met me outside with a frying pan. I’m not sure what he thought he’d accomplish with a thirteen-inch skillet, but when I dumbly laughed, he looked at me like I had too much “North” running though my veins…and anyone from the “South” would get it. Whatever the case, he stripped me of my verb status, relegating me to a lowly noun.
The killjoy…he’d nuked my party girl reputation.
I licked my lips as the hotdog turned over, saying, “Free?” to my boss, Castro Belinski.
He grumbled, “Buy another book, and that dog is yours.” I fished around in my purse and pulled out a twenty-dollar bill, buying a pocket book on the migratory pattern of the cuckoo bird.
After I plunked the cash down on the countertop, I opened the grease-splattered case, picked up the tongs, and dropped the dog on a bun. I slathered on mustard and relish, closing my eyes for prayer. I wasn’t sure I had a direct line to God, but I did always manage a food prayer.
, I prayed to myself.
May you not clog my arteries or kill me from food poisoning. Thank you Jesus, and God bless America.
I demolished one third in my first bite.
Mr. B made the sign of the cross, muttering, “Long live Poland and Cuba.”
“Long live Poland and Cuba,” I agreed, toasting my dog in his direction. I guess if you liked communism.
Mr. B’s half Polish and half Cuban with an overabundant love to his two homelands. He was heart-attack-round at three hundred pounds, hygienically challenged, and dressed like a hillbilly. His standard uniform consisted of bibbed overalls with a tan blazer one-size too small. Sometimes he wore shoes, sometimes he didn’t.
You had to roll with the weird if you wanted a paycheck.
At any given time, you’d catch a panoramic view of him doing one of three things: marking up merchandise, eating a high-calorie snack, or enjoying the Christmas spirit. Not in the traditional sense, but in the liquid sense.
Mr. B had a proclivity toward liquor.
My guess was he might’ve been tipsy when he decorated the place because we worked in a neoclassical time warp. On the ceiling, he paid homage to Michelangelo’s work at the Sistine Chapel. Customers didn’t see replicas of angels and King David—
. They got a load of Mr. B’s chubby face transferred onto bodies that belonged in
My days consisted of helping customers find books, ordering books, and reshelving books. Wasn’t hard to do because only five rows anchored the store. Granted, they were long rows, but once again, The Double-B (as customers called it) wasn’t about variety. It was about the bottom line—his.
Mr. B thrust his palm in my face. “That dog’ll cost you one dollar and fifty cents,” he grumbled.
I burst out laughing, wiping my mouth with a napkin. “The sign says it’s
because I just bought my fourth book of the day on the cuckoo bird!”
He narrowed his stingy eyes. “It
practically free. That ten-pack of dogs cost me ninety-nine cents.”
Not in the mood to argue, I motioned to the change he’d pitched on the counter and watched him count out a dollar fifty, placing it in the register. He took a minute to finger-count the ones in the drawer and then fish-eyed the remaining customers in the store. The Double-B was only a little more than the walking dead. I worked with three other females, but each had plans for the evening, so Mr. B (in the Christmas spirit) let them make their exit early. As a result, I’d been fated to pull a twelve-hour date with boredom since I had no boyfriend, nothing planned, just eyeballing the books that no one ever bought.
That’s what made the hotdogs look even more luscious and tantalizing. Occasionally, I drowned my sorrows in processed food.
Mr. B opened the case and likewise constructed a frankfurter. He popped the cap on the ketchup, squirted on a streak, and then grabbed the glass jar of relish, emptying the remainder onto his dog. A glob of ketchup somehow splattered on the top of his balding head. I considered telling him, but the man just ripped me off. His stingy butt deserved it.
Stuffing the remaining two-thirds in my mouth, I watched a dollop of relish tumble to my black “Belinski’s is the Bomb” shirt (karma, probably). I quickly untucked the hem, pulled it to my lips, and licked it clean.
Swallowing the last bite, I zeroed in on the remaining six. “Can I buy another one?”
“Sure thing,” he grumbled. I plopped down another one fifty as he snatched it up and placed the coins in the cash register. “Are you thirsty?” he grunted. “I can grab you a Coke from my secret stash in the back. It’s next to my juice.”
He had no juice; his juice was vodka. Mr. B looked splotchy-faced and a little more glassy-eyed than normal. No way in the world would he pass a field sobriety test. I made a mental note to chuck the vodka down the drain and hide his car keys.
When I gave him a smiling nod, he moseyed back toward the break room, his bones creaking and moaning like a rusty door hinge. Figuring I had a good ten minutes, I pulled out another dog, cradled it snugly between a bun, and glopped on ketchup.
While I balanced it between my teeth, I rang up a customer and gave him a freebie hotdog in an attempt to keep us clean of false advertisement. Bundled up in a navy down jacket, he looked so plump and bulgy it was hard to discern his body type. All I could make out was a thin smile beneath his droopy white toboggan. He topped out around six feet tall and was shooting off a thuggish, über shady vibe. Let’s just say if Frankenstein and those hyenas from
The Lion King
had a lovechild, the spawn would be Toboggan Guy.
He seemed weirder and meaner than shiz.
One teenage boy followed him. I couldn’t tell if he accompanied him, or if he merely finished his “just looking” gig too.
One word? Creeepppaay.
Creepy Teenager stood about an inch shorter than me with an Abe Lincoln beard. He was scarecrow skinny, wearing jeans that hung lower than Justin Bieber’s. He smelled emotionally unstable, his laugh like a mad scientist. Both guys were sketchy and seemed to be strange for strange’s sake. They’d paced all night, perusing sections that didn’t fit what I would’ve guessed as their reader profiles.
Like Toboggan, he scored high on the perv scale, and that’s coming from a girl who knew just enough about perverts. I bent over; he focused on my rear end. I reached for a top shelf; his eyes glued to my chest. I smiled at someone; he licked his lips and looked like he wanted to eat mine.
Thank God, he wasn’t the hotdog type, but I still had to deal with Toboggan.
When I dropped the hotdog in Toboggan’s hand, he brushed my knuckles long enough for his intent to remain clear. He wanted a piece of Darcy Walker, and he didn’t strike me as the type above using force. The moment I talked myself out of his forward advances, he opened his mouth and removed all doubt.
“You’ve got a killer bod,” he muttered lowly, taking a bite of hotdog. I ignored him, cringing at the thought of his hands on me. “Did you hear me?” he asked. “You’ve got a killer bod.”
The way I saw it, I had two options. Ignore him (um, no), or confront his sick innuendos (heck, yeah).
I hitched my chin up, giving him my patented eat-dirt-and-die face. “When you decide to be a douchebag, you’re all-in, aren’t you?”
Toboggan didn’t respond, but Creepy Teenager threw his head back and laughed, maniacally.
Normally, crazy people fascinated me, but I wanted this one gone…like yesterday…maybe last week. “You should leave,” I said quietly.
“It’s a public place,” Toboggan refuted.
“So?” I countered.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
His thin lips tilted upward. “Long first name.”
“Yeah, you ought to hear my middle.”
Toboggan and Creepy Teenager both let that string of words sink in. Yes, it was Darcyspeak (my own made-up dictionary of terms), but there was no doubt in the message.
Get. Out. Now.
I went back to cleaning the green countertop, surprised when I finished that they both still did the staring gig. “Hmm,” Toboggan muttered, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. “You have a strange look on your face. What’re you thinking?”
I braced both hands on the countertop and blurted out the truth. “I’m thinking middle finger.”
Yup, I went ghetto.
Creepy Teenager dispensed more of the mad scientist laugh, and I glanced back toward the break room, wondering how long it took to get a freaking can of Coke. Not that Mr. B would be much help, but a girl could hope.
“I like a girl with spunk,” Toboggan chuckled.
I never changed my stance, only reiterated myself. “Take your
self out the door and kiss off.”
“Only if you tell me what a ponkey is.”
Like an idiot, I obliged. I’d learned a long time ago to not give psychos what they wanted. It empowered them and weakened you. But this guy rubbed me the wrong way, and I dumbly put one more coin in his psycho bank.
“It’s Darcyspeak, you idiot. There are punks, and then there are donkeys. For those in life that pack the double whammy—where the punk in you makes a donkey out of your ass—I refer to them as ponkeys. You, my friend, are one of the biggest ponkeys I’ve ever run across. And I mean that with all due respect,” I lied and batted my eyelashes sarcastically.
I actually said the “ass” word. I never cursed, but perv, here, was worth the sin.
“Darcy,” he grinned, acknowledging my name. “I like that.”
Once again, something lewd crossed his lips, giving me a bad case of the heebie-jeebies. I threw him a dirty look; the environmentally acceptable alternative to live grenades. At the last minute, I pulled out my iPhone and clicked on the video, shoving the screen right up into his face.