Published by Flux, a Division of Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
Seventeen-year-old Billy O'Reilly, an Iowa farm boy, is thrilled to be hooking up with the most beautiful, rich, talented girl in high school, Lisa Wells, whose father is president of State Center University. But one night, after Billy leaves Lisa's bedroom, she is found dead, and Billy is accused of her murder. To make matters worse, the county sheriff finds the weapon used to commit the crime in Billy's pickup truck. Riddled with guilt, Billy must face not only his parents and his best friend Windy (female), but he must also prove himself innocent. He must also ask himself a serious question about his relationship with Lisa: Was this love? Billy and Windy, working as a team, solve the crime, and by the story's end Billy realizes that his involvement with Lisa was not love. Love is built on friendship and loyalty—qualities that he has found in his friend Windy throughout this crisis.
from Chapter Three
Lisa eased the door closed and leaned against it.
She'd locked it.
I backed away from her, toward her bed. She smiled again, her lips wide, cheekbones high.
My eyes latched on to her. Hugged her. I totally loved her, though I'd never told her that: I was waiting for her to say she loved me first. But she never had. Not yet.
She stepped up to me and slipped her arms around my waist. I inhaled her scent from the lake and sunshine and slowly wrapped my arms around her, the full length of her bikini-clad body crushed against me.
"I was afraid you'd be a no-show," she said, and kissed me.
A voice in the back of my brain screamed: Let loose of her! Get out of here!
I waited for my heart to slide back down my throat before I said, "What do you want?"
"We have to talk."
"What's left to say?"
"I saw you earlier. Then Rodney told me Daddy had you cornered in his study. I waited at the top of the stairs. We can't talk now. There's not enough time. But later."
She strolled across the room to her bedroom's sliding-glass door that opened to a sun deck and steps. That's how I'd been able to slip into her room at night. Steps. Sun deck. Sliding-glass door. Six weeks of trysts. Of making out. Fifteen times, total.
I touched the white chenille bedspread.
Lisa's entire room was done in white: carpet, walls, vanity, desk, night table, canopied bed, all with splashes of gold, blue, and pink for accent. I'd never seen the room filled with sunlight like this before, only moonlight and lamplight. The place was immaculate. Bed made. Spread taut. No clothes or other clutter on the floor. Dressing table neatly arranged.
In a way, her bedroom suddenly reminded me of Dr. Wells's study: everything in its place. Perfectly.
Muffin, her white Angora cat, lay on the bed, drowsing, purring like a lion, its eyes half closed. I scratched the cat under the chin with my forefinger.
Lisa looked out the glass door and combed at her wet hair with her fingers. "They're still playing softball. Daddy wants to eat at three. It's quarter to now. He'll want me down there. After we eat, he wants to make a speech. Then he wants to organize a trap shoot. He'll be busy with guns, throwing the clay birds, making sure everything is safe. I'll meet you in the woods, where you always beached the canoe."
"Tell me what you have to say right now."
"Sweetie, there's not enough time. We don't want to get caught here." Still peering through the glass doors, she stood on her tiptoes. "Oh, Daddy's out there now, talking to the catcher and batter, probably telling them it's nearly time to eat. Go down the stairs and out the front door. If you see anyone, tell them you were looking for the restroom."
She turned from the window, blond and beautiful, eyes blue, her tan the color of light honey.
"Are you pregnant?"
She flicked me a glance, and her lips melted into a smile. "Hurry, Billy. I have to change." She reached behind her neck and pulled at a string on her bikini top. Then she pulled the string behind her back. The bikini top fluttered to the floor.
I stood there a second, staring, my face feeling brick red, then bolted from the room.
from Chapter Nine
Suddenly I realized the look on Windy's face wasn't her pissed look. It was a look I'd never seen on her face. Or in her eyes. Her face was blanched, like she'd just seen something horrible, unspeakable. And the expression in her brown eyes was that of total panic.
"Hey," I said, when she halted in front of me. "What's up?"
"You don't know yet, do you? You couldn't possibly know."
The only thing I could think of was that maybe there'd been a big fire and something terrible had happened to her dad. Burned or something. Fell through a roof.
"My dad finished his shift this morning—" She halted.
A knot tightened in my chest. "Yes..."
"He always stops at Leo's to have breakfast with the cops coming off their shifts—"
"They swap stories—"
"And this morning they told him—" Tears leapt to her eyes.
"Told him what?"
She swallowed, and her lips began to tremble.
"Windy, what is it? You're scaring the shit out of me."
"Someone killed Lisa Wells last night."
For a moment my brain seemed paralyzed, like what she'd said wouldn't register. I tried to smile—Windy must be joking—but my face felt as if it would crack. She wouldn't joke about something like this, would she?
"Killed her?" I said. "If you're just saying that, it's not funny, Windy."
"Shot her. I'm serious."
Windy was trying to stay composed, but her lips were still trembling, and suddenly her hands were shaking. I felt almost too stunned to speak. "Shot her?"
"Her dad heard the shot in the rec room. He found her on the floor."
"She's dead?" God, my brain still seemed paralyzed, unable to process the thought. My hands clenched and unclenched. My eyes filled with tears, and I swiped them away with my fingers.
Windy said, "There was a robbery. Someone stole some guns. They think Lisa heard whoever it was, went downstairs, and caught him in the act. He shot her and got away with four or five valuable guns."
None of it was making sense to me. I'd made love to Lisa last night...how could she be dead?
from Chapter Eleven
Sheriff Moody said, "Talked to Eric Benson this morning just before I came out to your place, Billy. Lisa's boyfriend. You know him?"
I shrugged. "A little."
"Says during the party he saw you in the house alone near the rec room, where the guns are."
"I was looking for a restroom—"
The instant I said that I bit my lip. I realized I might have made a major mistake.
"Dr. Wells provided port-a-potties outside," Moody said. "His and Hers." Moody leveled his eyes on me. "Eric says you had more than a friendly interest in Lisa."
"Henry," Dad said, "what's the point of all these questions? Billy was home. Sleeping."
"Don't get excited, Will. Just trying to get the truth from Billy here, but he's not cooperating. Are you, Billy?"
Mom shot a questioning look at the cop. "Are you trying to accuse Billy of something, Henry?" She pulled out a chair and sat at the table.
Dad said, "Billy, have you lied to this man about anything?"
"Billy doesn't lie," Mom said. "I know that for a fact."
I felt sweat under my arms. I knew my face was ablaze—I heard my blood pounding in my ears.
Dad said, "Billy, tell Sheriff Moody whatever he wants to know so he can leave promptly."
Moody stared at me. "Let's start with the first question again, Billy. How well did you know Lisa Wells?"
My knees began shaking under the kitchen table. My folks would never trust me again. Never believe in me again.
"Answer him," Dad said.
"We were good friends."
"How good," Moody said.
My throat suddenly felt rusty. I coughed to clear it. "Very good."
Moody nodded. "According to Dr. Wells, last night about ten-twenty the newly installed motion lights on the underside of the deck round the second floor of his house went on. He thought an intruder set them off. Lisa told him she looked out the window of her bedroom when they came on and saw a couple of deer. You know what I think, Billy?"
Another swallow. Painful. I couldn't answer. My voice was hiding.
"I think an intruder set them lights off, Billy. Lisa Wells let that intruder into her bedroom and entertained him. Preliminary indications are she had sex with someone before she was killed. The medical examiner will be able to tell us more. I think her and the intruder jumped into bed—"
"It was me," I said softly, wringing my hands. "I was there with Lisa."
Mom and Dad gasped and stared at me with disbelieving eyes.
"You?" Dad said.
"We made love," I said.
Mom's face turned red, then ashen, all the blood drained. I'd never seen her like that.
Dad stood, smacking his fist on the table, making the coffee cups jump. "I can't believe it! You were in this house, sleeping."
Smiling, Moody leaned his chair back, balancing it on its two rear legs. "Figured it was you, Billy. We played the tape from Lisa Wells's answering machine. On it a voice says, 'It's me, Billy. I'll be there tonight.' Wasn't nobody else at the party named Billy." Moody hooked his thumbs in his belt. "You were the last person to see her alive."
I felt like I was standing in the loft in the barn. Moody had slipped a noose around my neck and had thrown the loose end up over the rafters. He was getting ready to give to give me a big push. Hang me for a robbery and murder I didn't commit.
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