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Authors: Janet Taylor-Perry

Lucky Thirteen

BOOK: Lucky Thirteen
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LUCKY THIRTEEN

The Raiford Chronicles #1

 

Janet Taylor-Perry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2013 Janet Taylor-Perry

 

All rights reserved

 

ISBN-13: 978-0615884509

ISBN-10: 0615884504

 

 

 

Disclaimer

 

A
lthoug
h
initial incidents involving Larkin Sloan are drawn from actual classroom experiences—never stitches—but often taunting, insults, and several times leaving with bruises, all entities in this story are fictional. This is completely a work of vivid imagination.

Dedication

 

For:

 

E
mily
,
Olivia, Townes, Logan, Jessica, Adam, John-Tyler, Rachel, Jennifer, Brianna, Darreous, Johnny, Meagan, Trenten, Robbie, Josh, and Barrett—my 6
th
grade gifted students at Florence Middle School, 2008-2009. You made this year an absolute joy. Always remember that your luck is what you make it. Your life is what you make it. So, go out and make it count.

Acknowledgements

T
hank
s
to Lottie Brent Boggan, my friend, mentor, and editor. Those one-on-one nights where you helped me hone my craft were priceless, as you are, even if you did brow-beat me into tempering the dialogue. Lottie is the author of several books:
Mr. Honeycut
,
Saleta’s Secrets
,
Streams of Mercy, Redemption Ridge
, and
Return to Redemption Ridge
, her work in progress; a frequent contributor to
The Northside Sun Newspaper
; and the editor and compiler of a number of short story anthologies.

Deepest gratitude to Christina Jean Michaels, author of
Epiphany
, and Mark Cole, author of
A Child of Two Worlds
, for walking me through the process of getting this novel out.

A special tribute to my beta readers: Nidia Hernandez, who has read every word of everything I’ve written, and author of the
Rock Star Chronicles
, works in progress; Charles Brass, author of
The Ux Blood Trilogy
(
Earth Cell
,
Witchblood
, and
Witch Warden
—in progress),
A Child of Byne
, a novella in progress, and
Terror Cruise
—even if he did cause me great anxiety and much rewriting—Dirk Baezner, aka Norm d’Plume, author of 
Into the Mind of God
, a work in progress, and Maggie Banks, author of
Siege of Jericho
, retitled
Twisted to the Right
;
The Children of Nineveh
;
Whispers at the Wall
; and
Fool’s Journey
, her work in progress—though she also caused me much anxiety and rewriting.

Many thanks to my TheNextBigWriter.com family, specifically
Joss Landry, author of
Mirror Deep
; John DeBoer, aka jack the knife, author of
Get the Picture
,
The Side Effect
,
State of Mind
, and a number of works in progress; Ann Everett, author of
Laid Out and Candle Lit
,
You’re Busting My Nuptials
, and several others in progress; Cathy Jones, aka c.e. jones and Lucy Crowe, author of
Sugar Man’s Daughter
; Annelie Wendeberg, aka AEKronberg, author of
The Devil’s Grin
and
The Fall
;  E. M. (Emily) Havens, aka bimmy, author of
Fate War Alliance
,
Dark Night of the Soul
, and more; Susan Stec, author of
The Grateful Undead Series
(
They’re So Vein
,
Blood Sweat and Demon Tears
, and
Gator Baitin’
),
Dead Girls Never Shut Up
, and
Mirror, Mirror
; Jennifer Nissley, aka JElizabeth; Patti Hauge, aka flowingpencil; Leslie Daniels, aka GrayWitch, author of
Stealing Christmas
; Robert Goswitz; Rory Noel Hawk; and lucyinthesky. If I’ve left anyone out, forgive me.

I owe so much to Ruth Ishee, my aunt, who let me read to her over the phone. I love you lots.

Extreme gratitude goes to Betsy Creekmore for making so much possible and for pointing me toward Lottie Boggan.

Thanks for all your moral support to my Red Dog Writers. You’re the best writers’ group ever.

Merci beaucoup to Chris Chambers, a former student and talented graphic designer, as evidenced by
Lucky Thirteen’s
cover. He can be reached at
[email protected]
should you wish to solicit his talents.

Last a great big hug and THANK YOU, SWEETHEART, to Mary Catherine Perry, my daughter, who threw the original three chapters of
Lucky Thirteen
across the room and said she would not read another word I wrote if I made Ray the killer. So, I scrapped my first draft and now I have four books in
The Raiford Chronicles
.

 

Look for the next installment,
Heartless
, planned release February 14, 2014.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the
Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Isaiah 1:18

Table of Contents

 

Disclaimer

Dedication

Acknowledgements

1
              One Bad Day

2
              A Real Pain

3
              Thirteen

4
              Feeling of Futility

5
              Alone in the Dark

6
              Compassionate Captive

7
              Confused Captor

8
              Determined Detective

9
              Patient Partner

10
              Vital Information

11
              Dream Sequence

12
              The Voice of Insanity

13
              The Voice of Reason

14
              Coincidence or Connection

15
              Profiling a Killer

16
              The Man in the Mirror

17
              Face to Face with an Angel             

18
              The Deadly Virtue

19
              Investigation

20
              Laying a Trap

21
              Getting to Know You

22
              Samhain

23
              Looking Death in the Eye

24
              Homecoming

25
              The Accused             

26
              Proof

27
              Criminally Insane

28
              Things that Go Bump in the Dark

29
              Healing Balm—Festering Sore

30
              Unsolicited Advice

31
              The Truth about Thirteen

About the Author

 

1

One Bad Day

 

L
arki
n
Sloan awoke to dank, damp, decayed smell in a dark room. Confused, she tried to get up only to find her wrist shackled to the headboard of an old cast-iron bed.

“Don’t hurt yourself, beautiful
,” a man’s voice said from somewhere out of sight.

What? Where?
She strained her eyes to see in the gloom.


It would never do for you to be harmed any more than you already have been. You’re supposed to be blemish free, perfect, untarnished. I already made a mistake, and you got hurt. You weren’t supposed to get hurt. Latrice will be so mad at me. So, please, don’t struggle. I won’t hurt you. I promise.”

How did I get here? What’s going on?
Larkin’s mind swam with memories of one bad day.

 

♣♣♣

The
drip-drip
of rain on the tin roof acted like a lullaby. Larkin groaned, rolled over, and wished for a moment it were Saturday so she could go back to sleep. Dreams of a faceless dark-haired man had haunted her all night after her date, Brad, dropped her off in a huff following a disagreement. She sighed deeply and opened her eyes. The young teacher hurtled from her bed when she saw the red blinking numbers of her alarm clock. Her foot tangled in the blanket. “Ow!” she cried, landing hard on her knees. “No time to be praying,” she muttered, struggling to her feet.

Realizing she didn’t know the correct time since the power had gone out during the night, Larkin zipped to the kitchen and snatched her cell phone
from where she left it charging to check the time. She noticed a missed call, but the time threw her into frenzy.

“Darn it!”

She threw a Pop Tart into the toaster. Her cat, Cyclops, bumped her ankle. She took half a second to scratch his chin. “Sorry, no milk from my cereal today. I’m late. I’ve never been late. Love you.” The animal purred.

She scooped her pet a cup of dry food and gave him fresh water. Snagging the Pop Tart as it sprang up from the toaster, she choked it down with half a glass of orange juice. She dashed to the bathroom and pulled her auburn hair into a ponytail. “Oh,” she complained to her reflection. “No time for a shower or makeup.”
Larkin was glad she had dark eyes, lashes, and brows. She rationalized she had bathed before her disastrous date the night before, brushed her teeth and scooted to her bedroom.

Larkin snagged a pair of dark chocolate slacks and a bronze silk blouse from the closet. She puffed out air, thinking
I might end up alone if Brad is any example.
The men she dated didn’t seem to understand her choices. She spent many nights alone with Cyclops.

The lights blinked again, plunging the already harried woman into darkness. Not one to give way to negativity, she cursed silently and jammed on her shoes that sat at the foot of the bed.

At the table in the entry she thumbed through the papers she needed to start her unit on “Things that Go Bump in the Dark.” She squinted in the semi-darkness, thankful she had taught the unit before, but realized she needed extra copies of the stories since the literature books at St. Ignatius Alternative High School were old and did not contain what she used. The only one in the book was “The Cask of Amontillado.”

T
his is one bad day
on her mind, she locked the door and darted to her fuchsia VW Beetle parked at the base of the steps to the house, stopping only long enough to throw the sopping newspaper onto the porch. She glimpsed the headline
:
Still No Suspects in Serial Slayings.

Weaving through traffic she normally avoided by being early to school, she hit th
e play button on her cell phone to hear the message on her voicemail.

“Larkin, this is Brad
. I know I’m being a coward not saying this to your face, but after what you told me last night, I just don’t see us working out. Sorry.”

“Phew!” She tossed the phone into her open handbag
, and then laughed out loud and sang the line from the song by Queen. “‘Another one bites the dust.’ You spineless jerk. You have only one thought about women, and you’re a coward. Not to worry. I have plenty of time. I’m only twenty-seven.” Larkin set her jaw in a determined clench and gave a quick, reassuring nod. “Thank you, Lord, for showing me Brad’s true colors.”

She flipped on the radio half expecting the song to be on. She heard the announcer say,
“Detective Reynolds informs the media that no new leads have come to light in the brutal slayings of twelve local women. Police refuse to say there is a serial killer on the loose. However, authorities urge caution to all women living and traveling alone--In other news…”

She sighed.
At least there hasn’t been another victim.

Larkin scowled when
she saw an unfamiliar Nissan in her parking place. She had to take a visitor’s slot, which faced the school. Looking at the building it dawned on her it was as forlorn as the day with its gray brick and long narrow windows.
It resembles a prison
. She breathed a nauseous sigh, and then grabbed her briefcase and ran, realizing she had forgotten her umbrella in her haste. Her foot splashed into a puddle. She stared down. “Sh…” She bit her tongue not to curse as she became aware she had slipped into one black pump and one brown pump in the dark.

“Morning,” she said to the armed security guards at the door. Her greeting and late arrival startled the two men who normally felt cheered when Larkin spoke. She flew down the hall as the bell rang to start the day. Breathlessly she slid to a stop at her door where her students already waited.

“Sorry,” she wheezed as she let the teens in. “Your starting assignment is to write a paragraph about what you’re most afraid of.”

“Take a breath, Miss Sloan. We’re all here,”
Terrell said, wearing a teasing grin as he slid into his desk.

“Miss Sloan, what are you afraid of?”
LaKeitha asked as her backpack plopped onto the floor.

Larkin
replied, “The electricity going off in the middle of the night and making me late for work.”

“Is that what happened?” asked Tamara. “You’re wearing two different shoes.”

“Yes.” Larkin looked down and groaned again. The hem of her slacks dripped water onto the floor.

Larkin taught the lesson on “The Lottery,” and had a lottery of sorts to start the
literature unit, her prize being a bag of M & M’s. When Maya squealed she’d won, Larkin gave her the bag. Maya informed her teacher she was allergic to chocolate. “God, what did I do? Today’s going from bad to worse,” Larkin grumbled under her breath. To Maya she said, “I’ll bring you some Skittles next time we meet.” The girl nodded appreciation.

The teacher walked around the room as students worked on assignments. She
realized she felt a strange sadness.
I’ve felt this way since I woke and my dream was interrupted.

The bell rang for the next class. Larkin collected papers as students left. She took a breath. She had the second period of the day off
and decided to use the time to gather herself. She dashed to the teachers’ workroom to make copies only to find the copier broken. “Eeow!” she screeched and kicked the contraption. “Can today get any worse?”

“What’s wrong?” asked the principal, Dr. Rona Fairchild, as she got a Coke from the vending machine.

“Name it.”

The principal laughed. “You don’t sound like yourself. The repairman’s been called. Let the kids share copies until he comes.” She patted Larkin’s back
with motherly affection.


Teams? Good idea.” Frustrated, Larkin trudged back to her room with a Dr. Pepper. Her stomach growled, reminding her she hadn’t had her coffee and cereal.

Mr. Stoddard, the math teacher
, caught up with her. “You get a new car?” he asked.

“No,
” she barked.

“Sorry.
Wow. That tone. You don’t normally complain. Where’s that pleasant, perky person?” He grinned. “Practicing alliteration for you.”

“Just a bad day.
” She sighed. “Sorry. No, but I want to know whose white Altima is in my parking place.”

“I’m innocent. I wouldn’t want that redheaded temper aimed at me.” He peeled toward his room, and Larkin went to hers.

She drank her Dr. Pepper as she graded papers for her journalism class. The last one captured her attention:

 

Eau Bouease Gazette

January 15, 1978—Southeastern, Louisiana

Six Fraternity Brothers Slaughtered

Early this morning an unnamed assailant entered the Phi Kappa Epsilon Fraternity house with a sawed-off, twelve-gauge shotgun, killing six. Witnesses say the young woman whose name authorities refuse to release due to her age purposefully entered one particular suite. She never at any time threatened any member of the fraternity outside that one room. According to members of the fraternity present at the scene the only thing the young woman said was, “They deserved it.”

The arresting officer remarked, “She surrendered without incident. It was as if she was waiting for us. The girl’s blue eyes startled me. She looked as if she were in a trance.”

Names of the victims are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.

 

Larkin Sloan closed the file of papers she was grading
. I told them to find an old article about something macabre.
She read the brief explanation from the journalism student who submitted the piece:
I chose this article because it was old enough. Twenty years was required, but this is thirty years old. It was interesting too because the girl got life in prison, was catatonic, still has not given a motive for killing six dudes, and is from Eau Bouease.

Running a petite hand through auburn hair, she
wrote “100” on the explanation.
It met all the criteria.
She stood and tried to compose herself for the next class. She moaned as she remembered Dr. Fairchild telling her a new student would be coming. “Great,” she muttered. “That’ll give me
lucky
thirteen in this class.” She pulled herself together, and finally wrote the day’s assignment on the board. Sarcasm oozing, she grumbled as the bell rang, “This day just gets better and better.”

 

♣♣♣

Dupree Parks, the new student and an eighteen-year-old in th
e ninth grade, sauntered to the door just as the tardy bell rang. He was not a big guy. He barely weighed a hundred forty-five pounds and stood only five feet, eight inches. Larkin heard the girls murmuring about how cute he was. When she saw him, she had to admit he was a handsome boy with smooth milk chocolate skin and neatly braided hair, but he had been in and out of juvenile court since he was twelve. His latest charge was possession with intent to distribute. He had been arrested two days before he turned eighteen. Had he waited another forty-eight hours, he would not have been offered this last-stop opportunity. Sucking up the butterflies in her stomach, Larkin faded to the background while Miss Sloan, teacher, took over and greeted him cordially, instructing him to sit in the front desk on the far side of the room and to do the assignment on the board while she checked roll.

Dupree scowled at
her and said, “You crazy? I ain’t sittin’ in no front desk.”

She smiled and looked Dupree in the eye as she responded, “No, I’m not crazy, and that’s where you’ll sit
. All the students have assigned seats, and that’s the next available seat. Please, sit down.”

Dupree did not move
. “I don’t want these fags and hoes starin’ at me. I don’t wanna sit up front.”

Larkin
took a step closer to Dupree and whispered so that the other students could not hear, “Mr. Parks, let’s get something straight right now. You’re here as a last attempt to keep you out of jail. Since you’ve already turned eighteen, you won’t be going to reform school if you blow it here. In this room,
I
am the final authority. You
will
do as I say. You will
not
use that language in my classroom. The other students in my classes actually
learn
something. If you give it a chance, so will you. However, if you won’t follow my rules, the parish holding facility is about ten miles down the road. I’m sure their rules are much harsher than mine. It’s your choice.”

Dupree stomped to the assigned desk and looked at the bell-ringer assignment, which read, “Write in your journal
about, ‘I am most afraid of…’” Having neither pen nor paper, he looked over his shoulder toward the back corner of the room where the teacher’s desk was located. He growled, “I ain’t afraid of nothin’, bitch.”

Larkin
was just finishing her roll check in order to put the absentee report on her door for pick up. She crinkled the piece of paper in her fist, but walked to the door and placed the absentee report under a clip before she said, “You aren’t afraid of anything, Mr. Parks? Not even snakes or rats or spiders?”

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