Gramps always said that when the crickets were quiet, something bad was coming. And the crickets have been as silent as the dead. It started with the murdered deer in the playground, a purple foxglove in its mouth. But in the dying boondock town of Emerald Cove, life goes on.
I work at Gramps's diner, and the cakes-the entitled rich kids who vacation here-make our lives hell. My best friend, Alex Pace, is the one person who gets me, and I'm starting to have more-than-friend feelings for him-feelings I don't want to have. But he's changing. He's almost like a stranger now, keeping secrets and picking fights with the cakes.
Then one of the cakes disappears.
When she turns up murdered, a foxglove in her mouth, a rumor goes around that Alex was the last person seen with her-and everyone but me believes it. Well, everyone except my worst enemy, Jenika Shaw. When Alex goes missing, it's up to us to prove his innocence and uncover the true killer. But the truth will shatter everything I've ever known about myself-and Alex.
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||2 MB|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Tara Kelly grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2004 where she earned a B.A. in Film and Digital Media. Her books include Amplified and Harmonic Feedback. She is enjoying life as a freelance artist in the Denver area.
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The Foxglove Killings
By Tara Kelly, Alycia Tornetta
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Tara Kelly
All rights reserved.
Alex saw it first.
We were cutting through Neahkahnie Park, the morning sun warm on our backs. I was telling him we should take his grandpa's El Camino SS and drive down the coast to California for the summer.
"He left that car to you," I said. "You know he did." I reached over to muss his light brown hair. It always stood straight up afterward, as if he'd been electrocuted.
"We can't, Nova. I —" He stopped walking, his eyes widening at the playground.
Clumps of fur blew across the grass, like the cotton blooms did in July. I didn't think it was real at first. Some kid's stuffed animal, maybe.
But the stench was unmistakable. I'd practically been raised in my grandpa's diner. I knew the smell of meat past its prime. Raw. Metallic. Even a little sweet.
A deer's carcass was a twisted heap in the playground, its legs jutting out like winter branches. Bits of flesh, ranging in color from pink to dark red, were strewn across the wood chips. The head of the deer sat on the middle bucket swing. A misty film covered its eyes, and its mouth was open, as if it were gasping for air.
My stomach muscles began to knot.
I saw a dog get hit by a semi once. The scene replayed in my mind for months. The thud of the impact, the way he'd yelped. The last second of that dog's life seemed to echo forever.
This was worse. Someone planned this. Put it on display, like it was entertainment.
"What the hell ..." Alex said, his voice barely above a whisper.
Alex had been on an animal-saving crusade since birth. He'd tried to bring a rabbit back to life the day I met him. In fifth grade he'd called the police on his neighbor for yelling at her cat.
This wasn't something he could handle. Especially not now.
"There's nothing you can do," I said, the words slipping out automatically.
"I know. I'm not nine anymore." He glanced down at his busted Vans. Years of skateboarding had turned them from black to gray.
"I didn't mean it like that."
"Yeah, you did." He held my gaze this time. His eyes looked almost yellow in the dull light. Usually they were green.
I knew whatever came out of my mouth wouldn't be the right thing to say. He'd been so weird since his grandpa died last month. Happy one minute. Pissed off the next. Sometimes he didn't talk at all.
I slowly moved toward the deer, wishing I could ignore its vacant eyes, the drone of the flies pecking at its belly. My gramps used to clean up crime scenes back in the day. He swore by downing a few dozen peppermint Tic Tacs, claiming it obliterated his sense of smell. He was also a chain smoker ...
A handful of mints wouldn't take this image out of my head. Nothing would.
"We should call someone," Alex said behind me.
Neither of us had a cell phone. He couldn't afford one, and my mom thought they caused brain cancer.
I held my breath, trying not to gag. If I wanted to be a detective one day, this was the crazy shit I'd be dealing with. Too bad I'd inherited my mom's weak stomach.
Something bright purple sat on top of the deer's limp tongue. Darker spots peppered the inside, like a rash.
As I leaned closer, I realized it was a wilted foxglove. Or deadmen's bells, as Mom called them. They were bell-shaped flowers that grew all over coastal Oregon. When I was little, she told me not to eat them or I'd end up like Sleeping Beauty. I used to think they belonged to the fairies. The evil ones, anyway.
A chill swept across my skin, the kind that came from inside.
Laughter echoed from the hiking trail that led out of the woods. Matt Delgado and Jenika Shaw emerged from the shadows of the trees, shoving each other playfully. I could already smell Jenika's cheap off-brand cigarettes.
They were probably on their way to the first day of summer school. Jenika and Matt cut so much school they always had to make up a class or two.
"You think they did this?" I asked Alex.
"I don't know ..."
Emerald Cove bragged about its low crime rate, but that could be said for the entire Oregon coast, since it was 363 miles of boondocks. My gramps said this area was cursed, a magnet for psychos and other things that went bump in the night.
Jenika, Matt, and their friends wreaked their share of havoc around here. They were all about destroying property and beating up the "cakes," what us locals called the rich kids who lived and partied here every summer. But animal mutilation didn't seem like their style. Most of their destruction had some message about "sticking it to the man." They grew up together in the Pacific View trailer park — same as Alex and his sister. But unlike Alex, they thought the world owed them an apology for it.
"What's up?" Matt called out. His cowboy hat hid his dark eyes, but his wide smile was unmistakable. The silver rings around his bottom lip made it appear to glow.
"Let's get out of here," I told Alex, not in the mood for Jenika's shit. I was already late for my morning shift at the diner — we could call the cops from there.
Alex kept his gaze on the deer's head, like he was in a trance.
"Quack, quack," Jenika said.
One day she'd decided I looked like a duck and never got over it. Even so, her dumb insults still got to me. "Find a new line, Jenika."
She scanned me from head to toe, that slow, icy drink girls seemed to pull off so well. "Lookin' more like Mom every day."
My skin was darker, like my father's, but I was almost a mirror image of my mother. Thick brown hair. Deep-set hazel eyes. Overly plump lips and a cleft chin. But that wasn't what she meant.
In her mind, I was my mother.
Jenika had been out for my blood since second grade — the year her dad moved in with my mom and me.
"What the fuck ..." Matt gaped at the deer's remains, one foot behind him as if he wasn't sure he wanted to get closer.
Jenika walked right up to it like she couldn't wait to inspect the carnage. And knowing Jenika, she couldn't.
She fished through her ratty old military backpack and pulled out the 35mm camera Eric, her dad, gave her. She took that thing everywhere, like he used to. It was the only part of him she wanted anything to do with.
She tossed her backpack on the grass, near where Matt was standing, and squatted in front of the swings. The heel of her left boot sank into a piece of flesh, but she either didn't notice or care.
Most people never saw her coming. Petite. Doe eyes and delicate features. Before she hacked off all her blond hair last summer, she kind of looked like a Russian doll. But she sure knew how to throw down. Almost broke my nose once with a single punch.
"You're twisted, Jen." Matt laughed, shaking his head.
Jenika took the lens cap off her camera and leaned closer, studying the deer's face. As if she was plotting the perfect angle.
"You need help, you know that?" I said. I'd never seen her feel bad about anything. Not even the time she wished her dad dead to his face.
"Nobody cares what you think." She paused, aiming the lens right between the deer's lips.
Matt remained on the edge of the grass, his arms folded. He wasn't watching her, though. He was watching me.
I shivered inside, trying to block out the night I fell apart last summer. The night I let him touch me. His rough lips, the bitter smell of vodka. His hands, cold and completely wrong, underneath my shirt.
I'd never live that night down.
Matt turned his attention to the swings now, his lips parted. "That's messed up."
Jenika's finger hovered over the shutter button. "No shit."
"Did they glue the head or what?" he asked.
Nobody answered. I didn't want to know.
"Anything for a little attention, right, Jenika?" Alex asked, coming up behind her. He was careful where he stepped.
"Shut up, Boy Scout," she said, lowering her camera.
Alex leaned into her ear, his lips curling up the slightest bit.
"What are you doing, Alex ..." I said under my breath.
Jenika didn't let him finish whatever he was saying. She shoved him away from her.
Alex put his hands up, backing away onto the grass.
"What'd he say?" Matt dropped his backpack and moved between Alex and me.
Jenika didn't answer. She continued to glare at Alex, her entire body tense. "He's just talking shit," she said, finally, turning her attention back to the deer.
I didn't believe her. And I was pretty sure Matt didn't either, from the way he was squinting, his dark brows pinching together. He took a step toward Alex, but I blocked his path.
"Back off," I said.
Matt stared down at me — it seemed like he was ten feet tall. I was pretty strong for a girl, but he outweighed me by at least fifty pounds.
He leaned closer, lowering his voice. "What's your problem with me?"
He was there. And I was stupid. Now the whole school whispered skank and smells like trout when I walked by. That was my problem.
Alex wedged himself between us. "Leave her alone, all right?"
Matt moved closer, getting right in his face. But Alex didn't budge. His fingers clenched at his sides.
"What happened?" Matt asked, smiling. "You finally hit puberty?"
Alex shoved him. Matt staggered and fell right onto his butt with his mouth agape, that cocky grin wiped right off. I wanted to laugh, but I couldn't.
Alex used to look away and mumble an apology to avoid any confrontation with Matt. But now he just stood there, his expression unreadable. He had to have been freaking out on the inside.
Matt scrambled up, wiping his jeans. "Cheap shot, little man."
But he wasn't so little anymore. There was barely a couple inches difference between them.
"You're one to talk," Alex said.
Redness inched up Matt's neck, like it always did when he was pissed.
"Stop it," I mouthed to Alex. Matt always fought dirty, and Jenika would have no problem jumping in.
"Boob just rolled up," Jenika said, stomping out her newly lit cigarette.
She meant Officer Bube, the youngest and newest cop in Emerald Cove's police department. His last name was actually pronounced "Buh-be," but Boob was what stuck. His biggest accomplishment was busting some poor granny for having a pipe in her glove box — it turned out to be her grandson's. Polite locals called him overeager. Most people called him a douche.
"Watch your back, Pace," Matt said.
Alex watched him, like a silent challenge. I finally let myself breathe, even if the stench of rot and copper in the air made me queasy.
Bube slammed his door shut and walked toward us, talking into his radio. A staticky voice replied, but all I could make out were numbers. Codes.
"What's going on?" he asked, giving each of us a quick once-over. He was short, but built like a linebacker.
"Nothing," Matt said, picking up his backpack. "We're going to class."
Bube cocked his head toward the deer. "You know anything about that?"
We shook our heads or muttered no.
"It happened hours ago," I said, wincing as soon as the words escaped my mouth.
"Really?" Bube took a step toward me. "How do you know that?"
His lips ticked upward. "You a medical examiner?"
Someone snorted. Probably Matt.
"You think this is funny?" Bube asked.
Matt shook his head, failing to hold back a smile.
"There's nothing funny about that." Bube jabbed his thumb toward the swings. "Absolutely nothing. You hearin' me?"
Matt nodded, keeping his eyes downcast.
Another police car pulled in behind Bube's car, and Officer Mackey got out. She'd transferred here a couple months ago from some town in Nevada — which didn't make her too popular. Locals didn't trust new blood, especially if it was from out of state.
"Turn around," Bube said as Officer Mackey approached. "All of you."
"What for?" I asked.
"Do it!" he shouted.
I was terrified they were going to try to pin this on all of us to have a quick and easy culprit. I'd been interrogated more times than I could count, just for walking around past 9:00 p.m. They didn't want tourists to be turned off by us "seedy-looking" locals.
Gramps said the heart of the town was destroyed when the fishing industry died, making our survival completely dependent on tourism. Then Steve De Luca arrived from California and decided it was the perfect place for his world-class golf resort, the Inn. His next mission was to turn Emerald Cove into Laguna Beach. Minus the sun. And decent surfing. And, well, everything else.
"You're Sam Morgan's granddaughter, right?" Officer Mackey asked me. "Nova?"
I nodded. Everyone in town ate at my grandpa's diner, the Emerald Spoon. They called him a crazy hippie and raved about his food in the same breath.
"Hold your arms out and to the side," Officer Mackey said.
Bube had already started patting Alex down, paying extra attention to the pockets of his jeans.
I obeyed, wishing I had the guts to ask them if they had reasonable cause. But that would just make me a target. I was tired of being a target.
"I'm checking for weapons, okay?" Mackey patted the sides of the army jacket I'd stolen from Alex. "You got anything sharp on you?"
"No." I'd stopped smoking pot a few months ago, mostly because all it did was make me sleep. Suddenly I was real glad.
"Take your coat off, please."
Damp air crawled up my bare arms as I let the army jacket and purse fall to the ground. I fought the urge to hug myself. Summer didn't get here until after the Fourth of July, if it showed up at all. "Me and Alex had nothing to do with this."
"Yeah? Why didn't you call the police?"
"I don't have a —"
"Too busy gawking and taking pictures, huh?" Bube said as he moved from Alex to Matt.
I bit my tongue. Maybe remaining silent was the best choice here.
"And if the devil is six, then God is seven ..." Officer Mackey read off the back of my Pixies shirt. "What's that mean?"
Alex gave me a side glance and smirked.
"It's a song." It never ceased to amaze me when adults weren't familiar with big singles from their generation, even cult hits.
"Huh." Mackey finished checking the outside of my jeans. "Mind if I check your bag?" She motioned to my black crochet bag on the ground.
Yes, I wanted to say. That's what my mom and Gramps would do. They'd tell me not to give up my rights. But I had nothing to hide. "Go ahead."
It didn't take her long to pull out my wallet, my ancient MP3 player, a compact, a tube of mascara, lip gloss, and my Emerald Spoon T-shirt. She unraveled the shirt, staring at the green spoon on the back.
"Your grandpa makes a killer salmon scramble," she said before handing me everything.
I smiled, not sure how I was supposed to respond to that. The last thing on my mind right now was food.
Bube rummaged through Matt's backpack, probably hoping to make his ultimate bust. If you wanted pot or Adderall, Matt or Jenika were supposedly the people to hit up. Where they got it or how they'd never gotten caught was a mystery, though.
Bube only came up with a Zippo. "What's this for?"
"It generates a flame, sir," Matt said without a twitch.
They stared each other down for what seemed like minutes before Bube turned his attention to Jenika and Officer Mackey.
"Are me and Alex free to go?" I asked. "I'm late for my shift at the diner."
Bube opened his mouth, but Mackey beat him to the punch. "Yes."
"Thanks," I said. I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
"Can we go, too?" Jenika asked as we walked away.
"Not yet," Bube said.
Jenika said something that sounded like a protest, but her voice faded as we crossed the street.
"What were you thinking?" I asked Alex. "Matt's got it in for you now."
"Then he can bring it on."
I touched his arm. "You don't mean that."
His muscles tensed for a second. "I'm not afraid of him, Nova."
I wasn't convinced.
We walked to the diner in silence, an overwhelming sense of dread growing inside me. Just knowing there was someone in town capable of gutting a deer and staging its corpse kept me looking over my shoulder. People that unhinged didn't stop with one act.CHAPTER 2
The Emerald Spoon sat on the corner of First Avenue and Beach, right in the heart of the downtown, but it was nothing to look at. Moss and grime dulled the bright green paint, and the neon spoon in the window didn't light up anymore. Tourism had been down for the last three years. We were lucky to still be open.
Excerpted from The Foxglove Killings by Tara Kelly, Alycia Tornetta. Copyright © 2015 Tara Kelly. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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