Best friends Daryl Barber and James Boucher were responsible, and their parents trusted them to spend Spring Break at Daytona Beach unchaperoned. When the boys missed their agreed-upon daily check-ins, their parents were disappointed. When they failed to come home on their planned return date, their parents were terrified. They could not have known that their innocent sons would encounter two violent men on the Florida coast. They could not have imagined the torture their children would endure before their bodies turned up four months later in a Florida swamp. What starts as a dream vacation, ended as every parent’s worst nightmare . . .
New York Times–bestselling author Karen Kingsbury narrates the tragic tale of a road trip gone horribly wrong in this not-to-be missed true crime novel.
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Faye Boucher hummed quietly to herself as she made French toast in the kitchen of her rambling country home that August 12, 1978. This was going to be a special breakfast, the last one she would cook for her oldest son, Jim, before he and his best friend Daryl set out for Florida. Their dream vacation had finally arrived.
Faye considered the trip and decided she was not concerned about the boys' safety. After all, Jim was seventeen, about to start his senior year in high school, and Daryl was nineteen. Certainly the boys were old enough to take a one-week vacation.
She set her mind to the task at hand, dipping the slices of soft bread into the mixture of egg and milk and placing them on the hot buttered griddle. The sun shone bright in the early morning sky and the temperature had already soared into the eighties. She and her husband, Roy, loved summertime in Metamora, Michigan, and this day like so many others was going to be a beauty: the rolling deep green hills, maple trees in full bloom, and long, warm days of fishing or horseback riding or swimming at the nearby lake. There would be family picnics, barbecues, and endless get-togethers with the dozens of relatives who lived less than an hour away. Metamora summers made the snowy winter months tolerable.
But for two teenage boys who had spent a lifetime of summers in Metamora, the town offered very little in the way of entertainment. And so the dream vacation had been born. One week in which the boys would drive to Florida, spend a few days at Daytona Beach and then visit Disney World in Orlando. They had planned the trip for months and Faye knew her son had never been more excited.
"Hey, Mom, did you wash my blue jeans?" Jim walked past the kitchen wearing only a pair of shorts and headed toward the utility room where he began searching frantically through a load of clothes in the dryer. "I don't see 'em," he yelled. His body was now partially inside the dryer. "Hey, Mom! Can you help me here? I need my jeans."
At the same time, the youngest member of the Boucher family, seven-month-old Kristi, began to cry.
"Okay, okay, I'm coming," Faye said, flipping a batch of French toast and smiling to herself as she moved briskly toward the baby's playpen. "Be there in a minute, Jim."
Faye easily lifted her infant daughter onto her hip as she headed toward the utility room. She was a slim, pretty woman whose body showed few signs of having had five children. Tousling her son's brown hair as she walked past him, she picked up two neatly folded pairs of blue jeans off a folding table.
"This what you're looking for?"
Jim grinned. He was a slender, muscular boy, five-foot-ten, one hundred and forty pounds, with shoulder-length brown hair and sparkling brown eyes much like his mother's.
"Why don't you get Daryl and come to breakfast," Faye said. "It's almost ready."
"Good idea," Jim said, setting the jeans down. "Can you help me pack after we eat?"
"Sure. Now go get Daryl."
"Thanks, Mom." Jim flashed her a smile from beneath the sparse mustache he had grown a few months earlier and then dashed back down the hallway toward his bedroom. Faye wasn't entirely pleased with the mustache but she figured it was harmless.
"I'm nearly a man, now," he had told his parents when they both raised an eyebrow at the growth on his upper lip. "It makes me look older, don't you think?"
"What's the hurry, Jim?" she had said then. "You're only seventeen."
Jim had always been mature for his age and now he seemed to want nothing more than to be treated like an adult. But Faye feared that growing up in Metamora had not prepared him for the world he wanted so desperately to explore — another reason why this trip was such a good idea, she told herself as she set the table. It would give Jim a chance to feel independent.
In a matter of minutes both teenage boys were sitting at the butcher-block kitchen table consuming mountains of French toast, syrup, and melted butter. Daryl and Jim had been friends for seven years and although Daryl was two years older, neither boy had been away from home by himself.
Daryl was polite, a good-looking teenager who was the youngest of five kids and lived just a few houses down on Baldwin Road. He had been working as a machinist for the past year and was about to begin his first paid vacation. He had brought his 35-millimeter camera and planned to capture a lot of memories in the coming week.
The excitement in the sprawling kitchen was palpable.
"I think we're going to need at least a few bags of this French toast for the road," Daryl said as he stood up and took his plate to the kitchen sink. He turned to Jim. "Maybe she can come with us, you know, just so we can get a good breakfast each day."
Faye smiled. "Somehow I don't think you want me and four kids tagging along to Daytona Beach."
Jim stood up and set his empty plate in the sink. "Oh, we wouldn't mind at all," he grinned, leaning over and kissing his mother on the cheek. "Hey, Mom, you ready to help me pack?" Faye wiped her hands on a dish towel. "Let's get to it while Kristi's taking a nap," she said.
For the next twenty minutes she gathered clean clothes from the utility room and helped Jim pack his spacious blue suitcase. In addition to the necessities, he was taking several T-shirts and pairs of shorts, a few tank tops, a bathing suit, and the blue jeans.
"Plenty of room for souvenirs," he said as he and Faye stood side by side surveying the contents.
"Well, don't buy too much," Faye reminded gently. "You have a car on order, remember?"
Jim had won a statewide bowling tournament in January and three months ago had received a check for ten thousand dollars as prize money. He had decided to take just four hundred dollars on the trip and set aside the remainder to pay for the brand new 1979 Camaro he had ordered.
"Who said anything about buying souvenirs," Jim said. "I'm bringing home live crabs!" He looked down at his little brother, John, who had joined them a few minutes earlier. John was about to enter first grade and he loved his oldest brother dearly.
"You want a crab, John?" There was mischief in Jim's voice.
The small boy's eyes lit up at the idea. "Yeah! Bring me a crab, okay, Jim?"
Jim laughed as he caught his mother's disapproving expression. "Okay. But I think Mom will make us keep it outside."
"Yeah, I'll make a cage for him," John said as he raced out of the room, intent on finding a place where he could store a crab. Seconds later they could hear him singing happily, "I'm getting a crab, I'm getting a crab. Jim's going to get me a crab."
The packing finished, Jim and Daryl hauled their suitcases outside and placed them in the trunk of Daryl's 1972 Chevrolet Nova. Although not flashy, the red sports car was easy to recognize with its shiny, black vinyl top.
Jim's father, Roy Boucher, had said good-bye to his son that morning before he left for work and Daryl's family had said their good-byes earlier, also. Now, the rest of the Boucher family lined up in the family driveway to watch Daryl and Jim leave. Timothy, fifteen years old, laughed and playfully wrestled with Steven, just two years younger than him. John, meanwhile, hovered beside Jim, struggling to help him pack a stack of towels and a blanket into the backseat of the car. The child worshiped his oldest brother and had not stopped talking about the idea of getting a crab when he returned.
"Are you sure, Jim?" the little boy asked, huge brown eyes searching Jim's for an answer. "A crab? A real live crab?"
Jim crouched down on one knee and put his hands on John's shoulders. "I'll try my best to find one for you, and you be a good boy for Mom, is that a deal?"
John nodded but then his lower lip began to quiver and a single tear escaped as his eyes overflowed. "How long is a week?"
Jim pulled the child into a hug as the others watched from nearby and Faye felt a lump rising in her throat. "Not very long," Jim said softly. "I'll be back before you know it."
John nodded and his sudden sadness seemed to pass as quickly as it had come on. Jim stood up and waved good-bye to his other brothers as Daryl climbed into the driver's seat and shut the car door. Faye walked up to Jim and took him in her arms. Kristi was up from her nap and she sat balanced once again on Faye's hip. The three of them stayed close for a long moment until finally, Jim pulled away.
"I love you, Mom," he said, leaning toward her and kissing her.
The lump in Faye's throat had grown larger and she was unable to speak. Her eyes grew damp and Jim could see how emotional she had become.
Faye smiled in spite of her feelings. "I love you, honey," she whispered, her voice raspy.
"Don't worry, Mom," he said, looking intently into her eyes. "We'll be fine."
Faye nodded quickly, swallowing hard. She did not want to cry. It was ridiculous to be so concerned over Jim's departure. But he had never been away from home, never been on his own without the help of his parents.
"Please call when you get there, okay?" she said finally, forcing herself to sound casual. The boys planned to travel more than five hundred miles that afternoon and arrive in Daytona Beach sometime late that night. Faye figured she should be getting their phone call at that time.
"We will," he said. "Soon as we get there."
Jim kissed her one more time and smiled.
"Have fun," Faye whispered, brushing her son's hair back from his eyes and smiling in return. "We'll miss you."
"Me, too." Jim slid into the passenger seat and waved at his family. "Bye!" he shouted. "See you in a week!"
Faye looked hard at Jim as the car pulled out of the driveway. He looked young and carefree, about to begin the adventure of a lifetime. A week wasn't long at all and then they would be back, sharing tall tales of their time in Florida. She raised her arm up once more, waving one final time.
"Bye, Jim," she said softly. "Love you."
And then she and her four remaining children stayed in the driveway waving to the boys until the red Chevy Nova with the shiny black top turned off Baldwin Road and disappeared from sight.CHAPTER 2
The Eagles sounded loud and clear over Daryl's new car stereo and the boys sang along as they drove south down the interstate.
"I've got a peaceful, easy feeling, And I know she won't let me down. 'Cause I'm already standing on the ground."
When the song ended, Jim reached into the backseat and grabbed a paper bag.
"Sandwich time," he said, tossing one to Daryl. "How long we been driving?"
Daryl glanced at his watch. "Three hours. Still got a long way to go."
Jim and Daryl were halfway across Ohio when they finished the sandwiches. They had made them the night before in an effort to save time and money and so their only stops would be to buy gasoline for the Nova.
Jim looked out the window and wondered what Jaime was doing. He wished that there had been some way she could have come on this trip, but he knew the idea had been impossible. Her parents would never have allowed her to spend a week's vacation with him. They had been dating very seriously for the past four months, but in many ways their relationship was still more like a friendship than anything else. They kissed a lot and occasionally made out after a date. But she drew the line beyond that. Jim sighed out loud as he thought of her. She was a beautiful girl with a heart that seemed perfect for his own.
Daryl glanced at his friend. "Oh, no. Thinking of Jaime already, aren't you?"
Jim laughed. "Okay, you caught me."
"Don't worry, Jim. You'll survive without seeing her for one week. I promise."
In fact, the trip to Daytona Beach had been Jaime's idea. She and a girlfriend had driven to Daytona during spring break several months earlier. They had spent the week lying on the hot, white sand and splashing about in the clear, warm Atlantic Ocean. She had come home tan and bursting with enthusiasm.
"It's great," she had said, her hands gesturing in excitement. "Beaches as far as you can see and everyone's our age. Everyone. It's like teenagers run the place. We must have met a hundred people. And there's the boardwalk and the shops. You've got to go!"
Jim had talked the idea over with Daryl, who had been to Florida once before with his parents, and in a matter of days the idea of a dream vacation had been conceived.
Jim stared out the car window as they passed one farm after another. Yes, he could imagine marrying Jaime one day. She was that kind of girl. A sweet, family-oriented girl who didn't mess around with her boyfriends the way some girls did. Jim smiled as he thought of her. It was probably just as well that she hadn't pursued the idea of joining them on the Florida vacation. A week of staring at Jaime in a skimpy bikini would probably have given him heart failure. Besides, this week was going to be a special time for him and Daryl. Just like old times.
"How's it feel to be on vacation," Jim asked, breaking the comfortable silence.
Daryl shrugged and grinned. "Considering I'm pulling in a paycheck for spending a week in Florida, it feels pretty good."
Jim laughed and looked out the window again. He and Daryl didn't have to spend a lot of time talking in order to enjoy each other's company. They shared a love for the same kinds of music, they participated in similar activities, and they had grown up playing together on the same street. They were almost like brothers.
The only problem was that for the past year, since Daryl had started working full-time as a machinist, they had spent much less time together. Once Jim had resigned himself to Daryl's new schedule, he had gotten a job also, working as a part-time clerk at Kmart so that he could save up extra money for the trip to Florida. Even after he received his bowling prize money Jim did not consider quitting his job. The trip was going to be expensive and he wanted to make as much money as possible before the school year started.
"Jim, why don't you relax a little and enjoy this summer," his mother had said. "You work all the time."
"I like to work," Jim had insisted. "It makes me feel good to know I can make money and buy my own things. I've had enough summers where all I do is sit around. Besides, I want to save for the trip."
With their heavy work schedules, the summer had gone by quickly and then, suddenly, the trip was upon them. By that time Jim had saved an additional five hundred dollars, of which he kept four hundred in cash for the trip and put the rest in the bank with his prize money.
The car was traveling at a steady speed and Jim casually felt his wallet to make sure he'd brought it. Then he remembered his traveler's checks. Suddenly he couldn't remember if he had taken them or not.
"Oh, no," he said. He rummaged through his duffel bag.
Daryl watched his friend with a puzzled look on his face. "What's up?"
Jim felt the smooth plastic check holder tucked in the bottom of the bag and he released a deep sigh as he held up the traveler's checks so Daryl could see them. "For a second there I thought I forgot these."
"Glad you didn't," Daryl said. He had resumed singing and was clearly enjoying the trip. He had several hundred dollars in cash with him but Jim's parents had insisted that one of them take some money in traveler's checks.
"You never know, son," his father had said. "You could lose your money or your wallet might get taken. Having traveler's checks, you won't have to worry about that. It's a good idea."
Jim had agreed and now, two hundred miles from home, he was glad to know he hadn't forgotten them.
"Tell me again what you remember about Daytona Beach," Jim said, turning sideways in his seat and reaching over and turning down the radio.
Daryl laughed softly. Jim had never been away from home except for family vacations to visit grandparents or other relatives. Now he seemed excited just traveling through Ohio. Daryl could only imagine what he would think about Daytona Beach once they got there.
"Well, I'll tell you this much," Daryl said. "There are definitely a lot of girls. And none of them are wearing much, if you know what I mean!"
Jim laughed and felt his face flush with embarrassment. Jaime had warned him about the girls.
"I know you're on vacation," she had said lightly, "But keep your hands to yourself, hear?"
Jim had agreed completely. He wouldn't mind sitting on a warm beach watching bikini-clad girls stroll by. But he wasn't looking to get involved with any of them. Not with Jaime waiting back home.
"What else?" he asked, anxious to change the subject.
"Well, they have parties on the beach," Daryl said. "You know, at the motels up and down the strip."
The idea of attending a beach party sounded wonderful to Jim. He had been to high school parties and get-togethers at friends' houses in Metamora and nearby Lapeer. But he had never been to a party like he figured they would have at Daytona Beach.
"And the water's warm, right?" Jim continued.
"You bet it is," Daryl said, grinning at the memory of the warm Atlantic water. "Nothing like our lakes back home."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Snake and the Spider"
Copyright © 2014 Karen Kingsbury.
Excerpted by permission of Bondfire Books, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a true story, which makes this crime story quite interesting. There are lots of twists and turns in the solving of this mystery which keeps one intrigued on the solving. A good read and captivating tale.
This book isn't a bad read at all -- it's just a tad drawn out and a bit repetitive as well. That being said -- I'm glad I bought it despite those elements -- the story is just that good.
I love this author. her books are great to read.
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Let the rain fall away cause today is beautiful.
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