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Authors: Edward Lazellari

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BOOK: The Lost Prince
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“What’s the occasion?” he asked, as he shoveled food onto a plate.

“My brother the food critic,” Beverly said. “We hadn’t talked for fifteen years until he showed up. You’d think he’d tread more delicately than to insult my cooking.” Bev’s smile conveyed she knew how bad a cook she really was. “Look, hon, I have to cover for someone on late shift at the bar tonight. So you dig in and just hang tight with Luanne.”

“Uh … okay. Where’s Colby?”

“He had to run an errand up north. Said he’ll be back in a day.”

“An errand?” When Daniel met the man just two nights ago, he could have sworn Colby was a down-on-his-luck transient barely scraping by. Now he had out-of-town errands and enough clout with his estranged sister to have her put Daniel up while he avoided the authorities.

“You know what I know, hon … the man has
always
lived secretly.”

Luanne finished licking her fingers and picked up the sketch pad Daniel had just brought in. She started thumbing through it, leaving light barbecue smudges on the edge of the pages. Daniel felt Luanne should know better than to do that without asking. At the same time he was flattered she’d taken an interest in his work.

Beverly grabbed her purse and coat and headed out. “There’s some good stuff on the HBO tonight,” she said. “New
Entourage
. You two be good, now.” She shut the door behind her.

Daniel delicately lowered himself onto a counter stool; his bruised rib throbbed whenever he shifted his weight. He wolfed down the pork, some mac and cheese, and two pieces of corn bread. Luanne had gotten up to the drawing of the lake that he had just finished.

“You’re good,” she said. “Is that all you draw? Trees and stuff?”

Daniel looked around subtly for his other pad, but it was nowhere in sight. “Uh, yeah, pretty much,” he lied. “Stuff.”

Luanne gave him a smoldering look followed by a wicked smile. She slowly pulled the other sketch pad from its hiding spot on the stool next to her, the one with the drawings of her.

“I think you’re a liar,” she said, waving it in front of him. Daniel flushed. He had to eat his own criticism from a moment ago about asking permissions.

“I should have asked,” he said. “Sorry. I do that a lot. Stealth sketching. It’s the only way to draw a subject in a natural pose.”

She threw him a wicked glance and opened the pad to the first sketch he did of her. It was a close-up headshot of her on the phone. The pencil lines on the tightly rendered ringlets of her blond hair were delicate. He put great detail into the reflections in her eyes, catching both the primary and secondary light sources. He softened her jaw line and made her nose 90 percent of actual size to give her the hyper feminine look of a Disney heroine.

“Dang—I don’t remember sittin’ still long enough for any of these,” she said.

“I blocked them out while I had you in front of me—outline, contour, lighting, shading, and other details—and then tightened the details from memory later. The strokes in your hair are just pencil techniques I can do in my sleep.”

“You took classes?”

“A couple. I’ll take more after I leave.”
Hopefully not in prison,
he thought.

“Leave?” Luanne said quizzically. She looked mildly startled at the prospect. Since he was sleeping in her room, Daniel thought she’d be happy at the prospect of getting her own bed back. “You leavin’?” she asked cautiously.

“Well, yeah. I mean not at this moment. But soon enough … I can’t stay here.”

Luanne looked at him for moment and then turned her attention back to his drawings.

“How come you ain’t got no neked people?” she asked. “I thought artists always drawed neked people.”

“Not in public school. At least not in Maryland.”

“So you ain’t had a chance?”

“Someday … maybe in college.” What was he thinking … what college? Life as Daniel knew it was over. He was moving to Central America to work on a banana farm, soon as the heat on him died down.

Luanne studied the picture of her reclining on the couch. “I like the way you draw me,” she said. “I look pretty.”

“You are … uh, pretty,” he said.

“Why, thank you, Danny,” she said with a southern grace.

The way she called him Danny reminded him of Katie Millar. He missed Katie, his former best friend and lifelong crush. Her boyfriend—captain baseball—had assaulted her the night that Daniel ran away from home. He was up to his neck in his own troubles and still he went out to help her at the sound of her sobbing. It was there at that ballpark Daniel revealed to his stepfather he’d discovered his infidelity. And now he was on the run because of the fight that followed. Being in love sucked. It put you at a tremendous disadvantage with no guarantees that it would be worth it. And despite all that, Daniel still felt guilty he couldn’t be home to help Katie cope with the aftermath of her assault—not that she’d even let him. Katie wanted to bury the crime like it never even happened. He couldn’t blame her—he felt the same way about Clyde’s death. Daniel hoped Katie was doing better with her own demons.

“Thanks,” he said to Luanne.

Luanne left the counter and plopped herself on the big La-Z-Boy recliner in the living room. She sat there lotus style for a good minute, contemplating the kitchen … more specifically, Daniel in the kitchen. In one bold move, she pulled her tank top off and threw it on the floor. There she sat in her bra, having put on only a wicked smile to replace the shirt.

Daniel looked around, panicked that he’d find Beverley watching. “Uh … what are you doing?” he asked Luanne.

“Draw me,” Luanne said.

“You serious?” Daniel couldn’t begin to understand the workings of a sixteen-year-old girl’s mind—nor what factors might have led to Luanne’s losing hers.

“Yep,” she said. “No one’s ever drawed me before. Figure it’s a nice way to thank you. Just this one time.”

“That’s very nice,” Daniel said, flattered. “But, totally unnecessary.” Daniel looked around again to confirm they were alone. He realized both the living room and kitchen shades were up—nothing to prevent passersby in this tightly packed park from peeking in.

Luanne reached back and unsnapped her brassiere. Her unfettered breasts popped the bra forward. She pulled the straps down and threw the bra next to her shirt. Her breasts hung freely, smooth and round, the fading tan lines of her skin perfect except for a few beauty marks. She had large pink areolas and thick flat nipples, much bigger than Daniel had seen in art books. Though mentally numb with a mixture of disbelief and excitement, Daniel managed to find his pad. Subconsciously, he placed it over his lap.

Luanne pulled down her Daisy Dukes next and threw them onto the bra and shirt. The little pile grew into its own landmark of Daniel’s life, one he would remember well into his dotage. She was nearly naked—Daniel was more cognizant than ever of Luanne’s hourglass figure, the type that had been in vogue in past eras before the emaciated fashions of the 1970s.

The seriousness of the situation cut through the young man’s hormonal fog; Daniel was really worried now. This was a dangerous situation … he had nowhere else to go and didn’t want to do something that might get him and Colby in trouble with Beverly. Luanne wasn’t the least concerned about onlookers—maybe she just didn’t think that far ahead. For all Daniel knew, she gave the neighbors a peep show every night. She sat lotus style in deep contemplation (at least for her) wearing nothing but her white cotton smiley-face-print panties with lace frills on the edges. Daniel wondered what she was debating, until she hooked her thumbs into the waistband and unfolded her legs.

“No,” Daniel said, trying to stem the momentum. “You don’t need to take off…”

Luanne whipped her panties off with a swish and tossed them on the growing tower.

“Nope!” Luanne said confidently. “Neked is
neked
. Now draw,” she said, pointing fingers at him like a gunfighter.

The dark blond tuft between her legs was a bit thicker than most porn stars’. Daniel kind of liked it. On the Internet, models were trimmed or completely shaved. There was nothing phony about Luanne … at least not physically.

Daniel walked over to the living room window and lowered the shade, keeping his pad over his thighs the whole way. Then he brought a stool over from the kitchen counter and placed it about nine feet in front of Luanne.

“Don’t you need to be closer?” Luanne asked. He moved the stool a little closer while she shifted in the La-Z-Boy, trying to find a pose she liked. She kept flashing Daniel in the process. He concentrated on clean thoughts, failing miserably. The blood was rushing out of his brain and into other areas of his body.
She expects me to concentrate?

Luanne had no concept of what constituted a tasteful pose. She settled on a sitting crouch with her feet planted on the chair in front of her butt cheeks, and her knees under her armpits; her pink rose flashed him in all its feminine glory.

Daniel stared, transfixed by the beauty of her womanhood. No picture could ever capture the complexity of one in three dimensions. He shook his head to break its spell and resumed breathing. He said, “Uh … no. Legs down, fold them over each other and flop them to your right, and put your arms on the rests. And turn your head three-quarters to your right and focus on that picture on the wall.” Luanne seemed less impressed with the new pose.

It took about ten minutes for Daniel to stop seeing the naked girl and start seeing a subject. His first live nude taught him a lot about female anatomy—the way body parts hung, the way bony landmarks and creases appeared on the skin—things he only guessed at in the past, proved or contradicted. Despite this being one of the more comfortable poses a model could take, Luanne began to fidget after ten minutes.

“How much longer?” she asked.

“Five more minutes, and I’ll have what I need to finish the sketch.”

“Have you burned me into your memory yet?” she teased.

“That’s an affirmative,” he said, trying to sound as clinical as possible. The
subject
struggled to become a hot naked girl again. He didn’t know where her interest was coming from. She practically ignored him for two days, making him feel more like an alley cat that peed her shoes. Daniel put extra concentration into the last bits he needed to finish the rendering.

Luanne put on her underwear and tank top and moved to the couch to watch TV. “Make some popcorn and we’ll watch a movie,” she said. She held out her hand in the
give me
position and said, “I want to see my picture.” With her drawl it came out, “mah pik chure.”

Daniel handed her the sketch pad and went to make popcorn. “Uh,” he said, pointing to her Daisy Dukes.

“Puh-leeze. What
ain’t
you seen already, city boy? You some sort of prude?” she asked, narrowing her eyes. Luanne studied the drawing carefully. Daniel waited, hoping she wouldn’t hate it. How a portrait looked depended on what aspects the artist focused on. You could soften a hard nose, thicken a thin lip, shrink a large forehead—basically it was within the artist’s power to beautify any subject with his choice of line, shadow, and light. The same subject could be rendered a hundred different ways. Luanne was already beautiful, but that didn’t stop Daniel from pulling every trick in the book to give her the most beautiful rendering he knew how.

“This is great,” she finally said, engrossed. Luanne studied every line twice as though she couldn’t believe the drawing was of her. “Let me know if you need me to pose more,” she said.

Sexy naked trailer-park girl, on demand,
Daniel thought. The microwave dinged. Daniel singed his fingers taking the bag out of the oven. He stood behind the kitchen counter for a little while longer. Like the searing puffed up popcorn bag before him, the boy needed a minute cool down.

CHAPTER 7

CORPSES CORPSES EVERYWHERE, AND NOT A GHOST TO FINK

Sweeny had not come to work that morning. The diner manager said it was unusual—yet another omen that Cal trotted along an already rutted path. The girl confirmed that Sweeny had met with some colorful characters from the city a few days earlier. The blond man, who she described in great detail, fit Dorn’s description. If Cal didn’t catch up with the detective soon, he would find only the corpse of his prince at the end of this journey. The manager had given Cal Sweeny’s home address without much fuss. The ease with which rural folks gave out personal information bothered him. Cal hoped otherwise, but it probably had cost Sweeny his life.

The sweep of the police emergency lights cut through the trees before their SUV rounded the corner to Sweeny’s home. It was a dirty yellow two-bedroom ranch style with a worn-down periwinkle-blue porch; two officers were unspooling yellow tape across the front marking the crime scene. Lord Dorn was ahead at every step. Cal needed a break—something to help leapfrog him two steps ahead. Otherwise, the prince would be dead before Cal reached him.

His crew looked exhausted in the car. The last forty-eight hours had been a marathon of violence and tension. “You guys stay here,” Cal said, exiting the Ford Explorer.

He approached the senior officer, a sergeant, and flashed his NYPD badge. “Looking for a missing kid,” he said, matter-of-factly. “I need to interview a man named Sweeny.”

“Only questions Sweeny will be answering are St. Pete’s,” the sergeant said.

“Natural causes?” Cal asked.

The sergeant shook his head. “Not even close.”

“Mind if I look?”

“It’s a bit foul. Bad luck that he had yesterday off, so no one even knew until today. My sister’s the cashier at the diner and asked me to check in on him. We’ve lost about thirty-six hours. Might need your help if the killer took off toward the city.”

Cal clipped his badge to his coat lapel and walked into the house. Everything was worn down, last decorated in the eighties, but it had dignity. A picture of Sweeny in uniform taken in front of the U.S. embassy in Saigon hung above his Purple Heart medal sitting on a bureau. Cal found the man in his bathtub. A junior officer snapped photos and took samples. Blood was splattered on the walls. A sharp cut ran across Sweeny’s neck from ear to ear. The victim’s mouth was filled with dried caked blood. His tongue lay on the floor next to the tub, with a numbered evidence marker next to it.

BOOK: The Lost Prince
11.4Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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