Books · Excerpt · West Virginia

From Designed to Death: Preparing for a Costume Party the Darlene Johnson Way

DESIGNED TO DEATH front under 2mbThe door banged open.

“What are you two doing here?” With gun drawn, Detective Ted Roget stepped into the house.

I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me whole. Of all the police officers to explain this to, it would be Ted.

“Picking up something I need for a party,” Darlene said.

“Really, a party?” Ted’s eyes narrowed and he looked Darlene and I up and down, very slowly and suspiciously. He holstered the gun. “Interesting choice of outfits. All black.”

Darlene straightened her posture and stared back at Ted. I wanted to squeeze my eyes closed, and cover my mouth and ears. I couldn’t quite pull off the see-hear-speak-no-evil stance by myself.

“It’s a costume party.” Darlene emphasized the word costume and threw a look at Ted that spoke of his lack of intelligence.

I blocked a moan from escaping. Of all people, why was Darlene challenging Ted? Okay, I did have my share of words with the man but we kind-of-sort-of got along, and I had been in the right in those situations. There was no way Darlene and I could pass this off as a good choice.

Costume party or not.

“You except me to believe you’re having a costume party with only two guests?” Ted eyed us suspiciously. “In Ms. Watson’s home?”

Darlene licked her lips, squared her shoulders, and thrust out a hip. I knew this position. She was readying to start one of her verbal beat-downs.

I wanted to launch a sidekick at Darlene, but that would really give us away. The neck of the black long sleeved shirt I wore seemed to tighten the longer Ted stared, and Darlene prepared. I eyed the door. Could I make a break for it?

Ted focused those angry eyes on me and shook his head once. I needed to work on my poker face.

“Of course not.” Darlene huffed at him. “There are four people attending. My mother, my aunt Hazel, Faith and I.”

“How unknowing of me.” Ted rested his hands near his gun and handcuffs. He really had a thing for placing his hands at those locations of his belt. “That’s quite an unusual guest list.”

“We like to keep it to a foursome and with Belinda gone…” Darlene trailed off and drew in a deep breath.

“You decided to include Faith.”

“Of course I did. My mother said it was the polite thing to do considering the little scandal I created at the store.” Darlene rolled her eyes as she emphasized the word scandal.

“I’m sure Faith appreciated the invite.” Ted’s eyebrows shot up and he stared at me, almost willing me to say something.

I pressed my lips together and nodded.

“Neither of you thought it was a horrible idea to come into the house of a murder victim.”

“That would be a bad idea,” Darlene said. “But I was coming into the house of my cousin.”

Ted rolled his eyes. “Well, forgive me. I didn’t know there was a difference.”

“I forgive you.” Darlene bestowed a smile on him and hefted her purse strap back onto her shoulder.  “Now, if you don’t mind, I’ll just get my fondue set and we’ll be on the way.”

“I don’t think so.” Ted maneuvered around us and stood in front of the kitchen entryway.

“Come on, Darlene.” I grabbed hold of her arm and tugged. “We’re going to be late. We’ll just grab some frozen appetizers.”

“Frozen!” Darlene squealed and placed a hand against her heart. “I do not serve frozen food. How dare you accuse me of such a thing!”

I drew back and held up my hands. “Didn’t know it’d be an insult.”

Ted stepped between us. “Ladies, ladies. Let’s remain civil.”

“Of course you’d take Faith’s side.” Darlene pivoted sharply, directing herself toward the kitchen. She charged forward.

Ted grabbed hold of her arm.

“Darlene, don’t…” I started to warn her to listen to Ted, and then tried changing it when the large bag slipped down her shoulder. Too late.

Darlene yanked away from Ted. The bag slipped, tipped over and items rained from her purse onto the floor. Lipsticks, pens, a glue gun, glue sticks, Chap Stick in different flavors, beads, scrapbook gems, paperclips, eyeliners. I watched in amazement at the variety of make-up and scrapbook supplies housed in her bag scattered across the floor.


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