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  • Home > Darynda Jones > Charley Davidson > Sixth Grave on the Edge     

    1

    A blank is the only thing I draw well.

    —T-SHIRT

    “A girl, a mocha latte, and a na**d dead man walk into a bar,” I said, turning to the na**d dead man sitting in my passenger seat. The elderly na**d dead man who’d been riding shotgun in my cherry red Jeep Wrangler, aka Misery, for two days now. We were on a stakeout. Sort of. I was staking out a Mr. and Mrs. Foster, so I was definitely on a stakeout. No idea what Naked Dead Man was on. Considering the fact that he looked about 112, probably blood thinners. Cholesterol medication. And, judging from the state of his manhood, which I couldn’t stop seeing every single time I turned toward him, Viagra. If I were to hashtag that moment, my status would read something like #impressed.

    I gave him two thumbs up, then looked back at the house again, happy to be sitting in Misery. The Jeep, not the emotion. I’d just picked her up from the car hospital two days earlier. She’d had several surgeries to fix her broken girlie bits because a raving lunatic rammed into her. He’d knocked her into a state of mangled disrepair and me, as I was in the driver’s seat at the time, into a state of oblivion. I stayed in that state long enough for Mr. Raving Lunatic to cart me off to a deserted bridge to kill me. He failed and died in the process, but Misery had paid a high price for his nefarious machinations. Why did bad guys always try to hurt the ones I loved?

    And this one had succeeded. Misery was hurt. Bad. No one wanted to work on her. Said she couldn’t be saved. Said to give her over to the scrap yard. Thankfully, a family friend with a body shop and a few incriminating photos, which just happened to have found their way into my possession, agreed with great reluctance to try.

    Noni kept her for two long weeks before calling to tell me that he’d almost lost her a couple of times, but she’d pulled through with flying colors. When I got the green light to go pick her up, I tore out of my apartment so fast, I left a dust trail behind me, along with a flummoxed best friend, who’d been telling me about the couple in 3C. They were apparently newlyweds, if their energy to do it—her words—all night every night was any indication. I hurried back to her, however, because I didn’t have a car and I needed a ride.

    When we picked up Misery, Noni tried to tell me everything he’d had to do to her to get her up and running, but I held up a hand to stop him, unable to bear it. This was Misery he was talking about. Not some random Wrangler off the streets. This was my Wrangler. My best friend. My baby.

    Holy cow, I needed a life.

    I had to hand it to Noni, though. Misery was good as new. Better than I was, anyway. Ever since that night, I’d been having problems sleeping. I suffered from debilitating nightmares that left me screaming into my pillow, and I jumped every time someone dropped a feather.

    But at least Misery was okay. Like, really okay. It was weird. Her cough was gone. Her sluggish response time was no longer an issue. Her reluctance to wake up in the mornings as she sputtered in protest every time I tried to fire all engines was nonexistent. Now she started on the first try, no groaning or whining, and she purred like a newborn kitten. How Noni had managed to fix her insides as well as her outsides I’d never know, but the guy was good. And Noni was my new best friend. Well, after Misery. And Cookie, my real best friend. And Garrett, my kind of, sort of best friend. And Reyes, my … my …

    What was Reyes? Besides the dark and sultry son of evil? My boy toy? My love slave? My 24/7 booty call?

    No.

    Well, yes.

    He was all those things, but he was also my almost fiancé. All I had to do was say yes to the proposal he’d written on a sticky note, and he would be my fiancé for reals. Until then, however, he was my almost fiancé.

    No, my soon-to-be fiancé.

    No! My nigh fiancé.

    Yeah, that’d work.

    I turned back to the na**d dead man, stuffed a couple of Cheez-Its into my mouth, and confessed my latest sin.

    “I’m just kidding,” I said through the crackers, regretting the fact that I’d tempted him and now had no follow-up. No punch line. “I don’t know any ‘girl, mocha latte, dead man’ jokes. Sorry to get your hopes up like that.” He didn’t seem to mind, however. He sat staring straight ahead as always, his gray eyes clouded and watery with age, oblivious of my charm, my clever repartee, and my intellectual wit. He was ignoring me!

    It happened.

    “Cheez-It?” I offered him.

    Nothing.

    “Okay, but you have no idea what you’re missing here.”

    I could only hope that one day he’d actually talk to me; otherwise, this was going to be a very one-sided relationship. I dusted Cheez-It gunk off my hands and went back to a drawing I’d been working on. Since he didn’t talk, I had no way of finding out his identity. And in my attempt to avoid eye contact with Naked Dead Man’s penis over the last couple of days, I’d also avoided several key clues as to said identity. First, he had a long scar that ran from under his left arm, over his rib cage, and down until it ended at his belly button. Whatever had caused it couldn’t be pleasant, but it could be vital in identifying him. Second, he had a tattoo on his left biceps that looked very old-school military. It was faded and the ink had spread, but I could still make out an eagle with its talons gripping a United States flag. And third, right underneath his tattoo was a surname, presumably his: ANDRULIS. I’d taken out my memo pad and pen and was drawing the tat, since I had yet to find a camera that could photograph the departed.

    I did my darnedest to draw the tat while simultaneously balancing the Cheez-It box against the gearshift, within arm’s reach, and keeping an eye on the Fosters’ house. Sadly, I sucked at two out of three of those tasks. Mostly at drawing. I’d never gotten the hang of it. I failed finger painting in kindergarten, too. That should have been a clue, but I’d always wanted to be the next Vermeer or Picasso or, at the very least, the next Clyde Brewster, a boy I’d went to school with who drew exploding walls and houses and buildings. No idea why. Alas, my destiny did not lie within the lines of graphite or the strokes of a paintbrush, but at the whim of dead people with PTDD: post-traumatic death disorder.

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