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Authors: Mary Duncanson

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Trouble Comes Knocking (Entangled Embrace)

BOOK: Trouble Comes Knocking (Entangled Embrace)
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Trouble Comes Knocking

Mary Duncanson

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright © 2013 by
Mary Duncanson
. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.

Entangled Publishing, LLC

2614 South Timberline Road

Suite 109

Fort Collins, CO 80525

Visit our website at
www.entangledpublishing.com
.

Edited by
Karen Grove

Cover design by Pamela Sinclair

Ebook ISBN
978-1-62266-169-5

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition
November 2013

The author acknowledges the copyrighted or trademarked status and trademark owners of the following wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction:
Wikipedia, Siri, Aardvark, Hard Rock, Jedi, Sleepless in Seattle, La Vie Boheme, Rent, Tupperware, Coke, Eminem, Ridglea Theater, Ducky, Central Market, Rawr, Texas State Fair, The Ramones, The Velvet Underground, Google, Red Vines, Acqua di Gio, Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Some Like it Hot, GI Jane, Tweet, Food Network, Twinkies, The Three Stooges, Clark Kent, Ouija, Mercury Cougar, Shrinky Dink, Oscar, Grey Poupon, Frappuccino, Captain America, Cadillac Escalade, Angry Birds, Linux, Spanx, World of Poker, World Series, Spock, 007, James Bond, Pussy Galore, Rambo, Bluetooth, Cirque de Soleil, Styrofoam, Facebook.

This book is dedicated to my mom and dad, who have believed in Lucy from the first read, and to my roommate, James Ward, whose support has kept me sane and whose antics added amazingly funny fodder to this story. To Bennett, who is my Ana and whom I will always love, love, love, love, love. Also, as always, to the Lit Girls; it was during our retreat that Trouble Comes Knocking was born, and it is because of your encouragement that it sold. Thank you, all of you, so very much.

Table of Contents

Chapter One

I paced the distance of the interrogation room, chafing my arms in static energy as Officer Len sat waiting for me to answer his question. The room didn’t look anything like interrogation rooms on cop television shows. Instead, it reminded me of the counseling room at my college with its cream-colored walls, stained concrete floor, and inspirational posters.

Other than appearing professional, if not a little uptight, Len also had the patience of a saint, so when he motioned for me to sit, I did. The metal chair scraped on the floor, and I placed my arms on the table. “It’s not like I wasn’t provoked,” I started.

Len cleared his throat but didn’t speak.

“I’m not a bad person, or some criminal anarchist bent on taking down the force one officer at a time. I’m a goody-goody, you know? I was homeschooled until I was sixteen. Hell, I didn’t even have a social security number until then. That’s when my parents disappeared and I came to live with my aunt Dolores in Fort Worth, where—”

“Wait,” Officer Len interrupted, raising his hand as if to physically stop the words from spilling from my lips. “What does any of this have to do with your arrest tonight?”

“I’m getting there. You see, this whole thing started about a month ago…”

I hit snooze on my alarm clock and rolled over to catch an extra seven minutes when Aunt Dolores used her outside voice to bellow from the bottom of the stairs, “Lucy, you’re gonna be late for your first day! Get your lazy bones out of bed and come down for breakfast.”

“I’m up!” I kicked at the tangled mass of blankets and sheets, attempting to free my feet. It only took a second to remember the nightmare that caused the mess, and my breath caught. I hated having nearly identical versions of the same nightmare every night: in an antiseptically white room a woman leaned down to me.
You’re next
she promised before she turned and left the room. The door stayed open and her heels clacked against the floor while flames engulfed the entire hallway, swallowing her whole.

Reaching over, I grabbed the journal and pen from my nightstand. In moments, I recorded the dream and could breathe normally. I scrubbed at my tired eyes and then ran my fingers through my pixie-cut hair. I found myself itching for a cigarette, but I gathered my willpower and took deep breaths and counted to ten, then twenty, instead.

“Today will be a good day. Today I will start my new path. Today I will not stick my nose where it does not belong,” I chanted as I applied teal eyeliner to make my hazel eyes pop. When the smell of blueberry muffins made me salivate and a quick glance at the time on my phone pushed my ass into gear, I grabbed my favorite lip gloss and sailed down the stairs.

I found Aunt Dolores at the kitchen island slathering margarine onto the top of a still-steaming muffin. She looked up as I entered the room.

“You’re wearing
that
?” Dee chided, handing me the muffin.

The weekend before I’d procured a cute pair of tan cargo pants and a brown-and-green printed thermal from one of the local thrift stores, knowing I would wear the outfit for my first day. I looked cute. Not overdressed, not a slob.

“Yes, why not?”

“It’s your first day. You ain’t gonna get another chance for this impression. You need to go on and change. Maybe a nice dress or skirt or something.”

“I’m not changing.”

Dee stuffed her hands into a sink full of sudsy dishwater and refused to say another word.

“Be careful, Aunt Dolores, there’s a sharp knife in there.”

She cleared away the suds and pulled out the knife. “Thanks, Lucy. I forgot I used this.”

That day I started my data entry job at HGR Enterprises. They’re one of the large tech firms in Fort Worth, and if I had to have a grunt job, might as well be a prestigious grunt job. I’d graduated with a degree in philosophy, but it isn’t as if the world is strife with need for the next Socrates when we have Wikipedia and Siri. I’d believed a degree would get me in the door. Underwater basket weaving would have gotten me about as far as philosophy.

All the apprehension and angst I felt about starting yet another new job faded once I met John Poole. John worked in the security department of HGR; he made my name badge.

“First day, huh?” He flashed an easygoing smile that took away my jitters. Delicious dimples popped up just below his cheekbones, and after shoving shaggy, brown hair away from his eyes, he scratched his slight muttonchops. A white shirt, ironed and neatly tucked, told me he styled his hair like that deliberately.

Tapping thickly calloused fingers on the table as we waited for my badge to finish, his sleeve moved up slightly revealing a tattoo of
Santa
Muerte
on the inside of his wrist. “Are you in a band?”

He looked taken aback before laughing and saying, “Yeah. Wild Monkeys Don’t Fly. Have you seen us play somewhere? I mean, we’re not doing gigs right now, but we’ve had a couple.”

“No, a guess.”

After my badge, he took me on a tour of the building. He walked with the cool, casual swagger of a wanna-be rocker. Someone who plays at the Aardvark but probably wouldn’t be getting into Hard Rock anytime soon. Still, he wasn’t old and creepy and hadn’t spent an enormous amount of time staring at my tits, so that definitely landed him in the good-guy category in my book.

The day started out fine, the first couple of days, really, but then things got a little hinky.

Being new to the company, I didn’t want to rock any boats or challenge anything that might take away from my benefits in ninety days, but the data on my screen looked odd. It contained an appalling number of discrepancies. Not anything most people would notice, but they definitely stood out to me. Little numbers didn’t add up; bits of data made no sense once I entered them into the computer. My job was solely to type the information into the Datanet system so it could be consolidated for later use, not check its accuracy, but these were only naked-eye right.

It wasn’t as if I sat there with a calculator adding everything up or tried to find these problems, it’s more that I couldn’t avoid them. Even as a little girl I could see things other people couldn’t. Not like witch-see or psychic or third-eye, nothing like that. More, I can’t
not
see what most people ignore.

I went to my boss, Seth, on Wednesday.

“I don’t understand the problem.”

“It’s not a problem,” I said. “Well, it is a problem, but it isn’t your problem. There’s data missing. Not technically data, more chunks of money. Hundreds of dollars here, a couple thousand there.”

“So you’re interrupting me for an accounting error?”

Seth tapped his pen on his desk calendar, signaling that I should shut up and move on. His pasty-white face and round, red cheeks got redder the longer I sat across from him. Still, I couldn’t shut up or move on. When things like this happen, it’s like I can’t help myself. I get involved—I need to make things right.

“I’m entering in the numbers for the third quarter. They’re over half a million short.”

“Are you working as an analyst now and no one informed me?” he asked, studying something on his computer. Probably a game of solitaire.

The desire to do no more than the bare minimum lived Jedi-strong in this man; I knew I needed to talk to someone else.

So I told John, who had become my only friend so far after three days. Plus, his blue eyes gave me girl wood.

“Half a million,” he said, letting a low whistle slip between his slightly gapped teeth. “That’s a pretty penny.”

“A lot of them. Fifty million two hundred forty-three thousand eight hundred pennies, to be precise.”

He double-blinked. “You counted?”

I ignored the question. “Either someone sucks at their job, or someone’s stealing from the company. I know I’ve only been here three days, but I can’t imagine the higher-ups at HGR wouldn’t want to know about this.”

“Sure you’re looking at it right?” His brow cocked and eyes squinted, seemingly unsure whether I knew what I was talking about, or if I had a child-star desire to seek attention.

I took a deep breath. “You live with your mother,” I started. “Your parents are divorced, but recently so. You have two cats and a fish tank. Last night, you watched
Sleepless in Seattle
, even though you told me you
stayed in and chilled
.” I said the last part with air quotes.

His face paled, and I wondered for a moment if I should have held back. I usually didn’t tell people this fast, but after a string of jobs that ended poorly, and not a single new friend, I decided to do things differently. John was my test subject, so to speak. If he could handle me being honest about who I am, maybe others could, too.

“How the hell do you know all that?” he asked, stepping closer to his desk. One of his coworkers glanced in our direction at the sound of John’s raised voice.

That happened sometimes. Like I said, not psychic; I just see things. When I landed this job, my aunt only had one request for me:
don’t ruin this one like the last.
I didn’t mean to ruin the last job. It’d been at a department store where I’d been hired as a part-time salesperson at the perfume counter. Wear a pretty dress and smile, spray people with the newest designer perfume, and hand them a sample, that’s all I had to do. Get them interested in buying it. I didn’t even need to try to sell it to them, per se, just get them buzzed.

During my two-week tenure, I managed to break up three relationships and out the lead of the department. To my defense, he had no reason to pretend to be straight. A five-year-old could have guessed his sexual orientation. I mean, c’mon, no straight guy I’d ever met knew all the words to “La Vie Boheme” from the musical
Rent
, much less sang them while closing at night. Besides, no one there cared once the truth came out; nor did they trust me. I became the woman who people whispered around and no one actually talked to. They feared I’d discover their secrets, too.

“Seriously, Lucy, I’m freakin’ out here.” John pushed an unsteady hand through his hair, and his eyes darted back and forth, as if looking for the nearest exit or witness or both.

“Problem?” John’s coworker asked, standing up. The guy looked to be about our age, with a military haircut and a tattoo on his neck. He wasn’t too tall but definitely looked like he worked out. Not exactly someone I’d want to make angry.

John, apparently realizing I wasn’t
actually
a threat, turned to him. “No, Ben. We’re cool.”

“You’re going to be okay,” I said, trying to make light of the fear I saw lurking behind those brilliant blue eyes. “I’m not some psycho stalker or anything weird. I’m just observant. You brought your lunch yesterday, but it was in stacked Tupperware, not a disposable dish. I know you aren’t married or seeing anyone, and it isn’t likely that a twenty-five-year-old guy went out of his way to buy Tupperware, so either you live with Mom, or you inherited her stuff when she died. Since you already told me both your folks are alive, that means you live with her.

“Dad’s out of the picture, but only recently so. You talk about both of your parents, but defend your mom a lot more. Which means you still blame him for whatever happened. If it had been a long time ago, you would most likely be over it by now. You aren’t, so it’s probably been pretty recent.

“You have orange cat fur on one pant leg and black on the other. So you could have more than two cats, but I took a stab at two. Plus, there’s a little bit of fish flake on your shoe, so obviously you have a tank.”

He shook his head. “You’re a trip. That’s awesome, like some kind of party trick or something.”

“No trick.” In fact, it made me lonely-girl-at-the-prom miserable most of the time.

“Dude, I’d take total advantage of it.”

In the lobby, a cacophony of elevator dings, loud voices, and laughter, not to mention the smell of overpriced coffee from the building’s kiosk jarred my senses. All around, people held private conversations on their cell phones, their words etching on my brain where they would forever be stuck. When John’s coworker took a break, I sat in his chair. Crossing one of my legs under the other, I thought about how I could never get away from the noise. About how no one would want to have my ability longer than a day, much less want to take advantage of it. Still, I asked, “Yeah? Like how?”

“Man, think of how much you could get away with just knowing things about people.”

Truth is, you don’t want to know as much about people as you’d think. I’d never want to be able to read minds or have the ability to see people’s futures. There is only so much I want to know about the person making my burger. Anything more would probably make me starve to death.

A few hours later when we went to lunch, I asked again. “So what do I do?”

He had an hour break, me a half hour. I’d been picking at a salad, kinda mopey but not wanting to face what I thought I’d figured out. It seemed, at least from what I’d been seeing, that someone at HGR figured out how to cheat the system. I didn’t know why or who it might be, but someone was definitely doing the dirty.

John took a huge bite out of his sandwich, a bit of mustard slipping from the side of his mouth. I wiped at my own, trying to signal that he should, too, but apparently he didn’t know the universal signal for
hey, there’s food on your face.
So instead I attempted to talk without staring at the glob of yellow as my OCD went into hyper overdrive.

“Take it on up,” he said.

“You have very sexy hands,” I said, then instantly bit my own tongue as heat filled my cheeks. “They’re big.” Okay, that made it worse.

BOOK: Trouble Comes Knocking (Entangled Embrace)
2.37Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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