Read Merit Badge Murder Online

Authors: Leslie Langtry

Merit Badge Murder

 

 

 

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What critics are saying about

Leslie Langtry's books:

 

"With an irreverent, tell-it-like-it-is, suburban-mom-assassin narrator, Leslie Langtry's
'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy
delivers wild and wicked fun."

—Julie Kenner, USA Today Bestselling Author

 

"Darkly funny and wildly over the top, this mystery answers the burning question, 'Do assassin skills and Girl Scout merit badges mix…' one truly original and wacky novel!"

—RT BOOK REVIEWS

 

"Those who like dark humor will enjoy a look into the deadliest female assassin and PTA mom's life."

—Parkersburg News

 

"Mixing a deadly sense of humor and plenty of sexy sizzle, Leslie Langtry creates a brilliantly original, laughter-rich mix of contemporary romance and suspense in
'Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy.
"

—Chicago Tribune
 

"The beleaguered soccer mom assassin concept is a winner, and Langtry gets the fun started from page one with a myriad of clever details."

—Publisher's Weekly

 

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MERIT BADGE MURDER

 

by

 

LESLIE LANGTRY

 

 

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Copyright © 2014 by Leslie Langtry

Cover design by Janet Holmes

Gemma Halliday Publishing

http://www.gemmahallidaypublishing.com

 

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

 

This book is dedicated to my most awesome critique partners; Janene Murphy, Susan Carroll, Ella March Chase and Bob Bradley. I couldn't have done this without you guys! Thank you!

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CHAPTER ONE

 

It's not every day you find al-Qaeda's number four operative dead in a Girl Scout camp in Iowa.

The body was twisted unnaturally in the rope course's spiderweb element that consisted of a large wood frame crisscrossed with elastic bungee cords. Sadly, it was my troop's favorite thing to do at camp. Now I had to disappoint them. I hated disappointing them.

A man hung there. He
had been
in his twenties and of Middle Eastern descent. The neck was clearly broken before he was placed into the ropes at Camp Singing Bird. He looked surprised to find himself here. I'm sure the irony would be lost on him that in death, he really was surrounded by seventy-two virgins. Did it matter that they were grade-schoolers, I wondered? Maybe that was just splitting hairs.

I would've been surprised too, had I not been through this kind of thing before. But I'd seen this stuff in Syria and Uzbekistan—not in the placid, wooded hills of eastern Iowa.

And my second grade troop was due at any minute. I was pretty sure I couldn't pass this off as something adorable—like I had with the bats in Tinder Trails Cabin or the mice in the latrines. Troop Leader's Helpful Hint #1—if your Girl Scouts freak out upon meeting a bat/mouse/wolf spider for the first time—tell them it's just a
baby
bat/mouse/wolf spider. Little girls are suckers for that, and soon what was scary is
adorbs!
—whatever that means.

I bent to take his pulse, just to make sure. Yup. He was dead. His glassy eyes were opened wide, and his mouth hung open. Dammit. I needed this like I needed wet work in the slums of Rio.

The sounds of giggles and singing came from the trees just around the corner. Any minute the fourteen seven- and eight-year-old girls who called me their leader would appear. I was pretty sure I couldn't convince them that this dead terrorist was a cute, dead
baby
terrorist. I pulled the parachute I was going to use for games later out of my backpack and threw it over the spiderweb.

"Mrs. Wrath!" The girls squealed in unison before tackling me in a sticky group hug. Kelly, my co-leader, smirked at me. She could get away with smirking at me because she's known me since
we
were six-year-old scouts.

"Girls!" I gently pushed them away. "How many times do I need to tell you—it's Ms. Wrath. I'm not married." Of course, I knew the answer to this question. Ad infinitum. Meaning, they'd always call me
Mrs.
Any woman over the age of twenty-one in Iowa was
Mrs.
Clearly
it was
me
who didn't get it.

"Mrs. Wrath?" The third Katelynn asked. Or was it the Kaitlin the Fourth? They all looked the same to me. And each one of them spelled their name a completely different way. Spy work had
not
prepared me for that.

"It's
Ms.
Wrath, Katelynn," I said with a smile. Leader Helpful Hint #2—when talking to little girls, always smile. They cry if you don't. I'm not kidding. You don't know real terror until you've stared at the watery eyes and rubbery bottom lip of a cute kid.

The second-grader looked confused for a moment, which was to be expected. "Okay. Mrs. Wrath?" she asked again.

I sighed. "Yes, Katelynn?"

"Why is the parachute over the spiderweb? And why is it all lumpy?"

Kelly squinted at the parachute, eyebrows knit together. She'd probably figure it out, being a nurse and all.

"The spiderweb is out of commission, girls," I announced, stepping between them and the dead man.

A chorus of complaints came from the little girls, and I held up my right hand in the universal Girl Scout symbol for silence. They quieted down immediately. I once again really wished I'd known about this trick when I was surrounded by FARC rebels in Colombia.

"Head on over to the Peanut Butter Pass—I think you're old enough for that one now," I said in a nice save worthy of someone of my caliber.

"YAY!" The girls exploded in shrieks and raced off to that element, leaving me in the dust.

Kelly narrowed her eyes. "They aren't old enough for the Peanut Butter Pass."

"You'd better get after them before they start scaling the rope, then. I'll be there in a second." I shoved her in the direction of the squealing herd before she could respond. "We can't leave them alone for a minute, you know."

Kelly gave me a weird look but took off after the troop. I turned back to the dead man in the parachute. It kind of looked like he was cocooned in the web—as if a giant spider had caught him, poisoned and wrapped him to save for later. If only that was what had really happened. No way I could get that lucky.

With a heavy sigh, I took out my cell phone to call the ranger. This was going to suck. You think the CIA is bad with paperwork? Langley (CIA headquarters near DC) has NOTHING on the Girl Scouts of America when it comes to filling out forms and accident reports in triplicate. Nothing.

My name is Fionnaghuala Merrygold Wrath Czrygy. And I'm a Girl Scout leader. Well, I used to be a covert operative in the CIA—a career that has remarkably prepared me well to lead Troop 0348. (And yes, you have to have a zero at the beginning—it's very important for some reason that no one can explain.) I was a CIA agent, that is, until I was unceremoniously and allegedly
mistakenly
outted by the Vice President of the United States' Chief of Staff.

That's right. I was outted. My name and photo were leaked to
The New York Times
"inadvertently." This is a fancy way to say that the Vice President was pissed off at my father, who was the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, because he didn't back the Veep's re-election campaign (a fact even more curious because the VP was a Republican, and my dad was a Democrat). So, my name got leaked, and the Chief of Staff took the fall, and was fired the next day just before going to prison (and of course, pardoned later by the President).

I, however, was not in a cozy corner office in the White House with a nice view like he was when my name and face were broadcast live worldwide. I happened to be in Chechnya where—to my surprise—the rebels in the bar I frequented had internet and were devoted followers of the
New York Times'
online edition. (They also read
Cosmo
but that's a story for another day.) It took me forty-two hours, two gunfights, a strange encounter with an armed chicken, calling in fifteen favors that I'd been saving, and a rather dicey drive to Estonia in the back of a jeep with no shocks to get out of that mess.

Back in DC I testified before Congress, got a nice fat check from my boss at the CIA, along with a short letter explaining why I couldn't work there anymore, and just like that, I was out of a job and internationally infamous.

It was Dad's idea for me to change my appearance, use my middle name, take on my mother's maiden name, and move to my hometown in Iowa. Dad's name was Czrygy. So brunette, brown-eyed Finella (the true pronunciation of my name) Czrygy became blonde, blue-eyed (You have to love what they do with contact lenses these days.) Merry Wrath.

The sheriff and a few deputies arrived at camp half an hour after I'd called. I'd managed to get my troop back to the cabins without them seeing the dead guy, staunching their protests with promises that Kelly would make them endless s'mores in the middle of the day—something that would probably bite me in the ass later. The ranger—Bob Williamson—sat with me as we waited. He wasn't very happy to find a dead man tangled in his newly refurbished ropes course. That meant a lot of paperwork for him too.

"Huh," The sheriff said as he poked the dead body with his finger. He stood up and tried to tug his belt up over his beer belly with little success.

"So, what happened here?" he asked Bob.

I tried not to roll my eyes. We'd already told the sheriff that I'd been the one to find the body. But this old, redneck sheriff was only interested in what a man had to say.

Bob pointed at me. "Ask her. She found it."

I once again told the sheriff about how I'd found the body. I once again suggested that they comb the camp for whoever did this, since they were probably still around. And once again, the sheriff looked to Bob for answers.

"Is that right?" he asked.

"Yes," I said. "And now, if you'll excuse me, I have my troop to get back to." I left before I could see their responses. If the sheriff was going to write me off, I was done with him. Besides, this wasn't my problem anymore. I couldn't care less what happened to the dead guy. I was off the clock permanently these days.

Back at our campsite, fourteen girls were bouncing off the walls after mainlining a LOT of sugar. Kelly gave me a glare that said I owed her big time.

With the possibility of a murderer running around camp, I decided our trip was over. Kelly and I packed up and called the other moms to help us carpool the thirty minute drive back home. The girls were too keyed up to even notice it was over until we arrived in my driveway. But by then, they had parents there ready to wrangle them into waiting cars.

Kelly and I watched and let out a very visible breath as the last girl was picked up.

"So, what the hell was that all about?" Kelly said as she led the way into my little house. Once inside, my friend and co-leader helped herself to a glass of wine and sat at my tiny breakfast bar.

"Dead guy," I muttered as I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. We had tons of the stuff left over since we'd cut the camping trip short. Little girls love peanut butter. I had to admit— they really had something there.

Kelly nodded, "Yeah, I got that part. But
why
was there a dead guy?"

I shrugged, my mouth glued shut. "Don't know." Only it came out like, "nnnt no" due to the aforementioned peanut butter. I really shouldn't talk with my mouth full.

"You don't think it's a little odd that you retire from the CIA and a dead Middle Easterner shows up at Girl Scout Camp the same weekend you are there?" Kelly crossed her arms. I should never have told her, in that drunken haze, about my past. She waited. I'd have no chance to stall with another bite of sandwich.

I swallowed. "Yes. I think it's odd. But it might just be a coincidence." That was a lie. There was no way it was a coincidence. I mean seriously, al-Qaeda's Number Four? In Iowa? And me being former CIA? Not a chance.

Kelly studied me. "Are you going to be alright?"

I nodded. "I'll be fine. Don't worry about me." After all, I'd handled things like this before, on my own, and in a Third World country. No sweat. And this wasn't my problem anyway. Let the authorities take care of it. I didn't do that anymore.

Kelly drained her glass and walked to the door. She paused and looked around my little, beige living room.

"When are you going to get some drapes?" she asked, looking at the sheets I'd had hung in the windows. They had Dora the Explorer on them because I got them on sale. It had really seemed like a good idea at the time. I'd always thought Dora was undercover CIA, recruiting kids to be double agents.

I shrugged. "Soon? I just moved in, remember."

She laughed. "Yeah, one year ago. It's time you had drapes." And with that she was gone.

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