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Drop Dead Gorgeous: Part 3 – Chapter 26

Julie Continues

I pictured Winks’s still body, sprawled on its side under the hedge down by the curb. Winks is dead. My brain froze on those words as I watched Delia swipe the screen, accepting the call, and raise the phone to her ear with a trembling hand.


Fumbling to take the call, she had put the phone on speaker, and we all heard the raspy growling voice at the other end:

“Who’s next? I’m still hungry!”

Detective Batiste dove forward and grabbed the phone from Delia’s hand. He raised it to his ear and shouted, “Who is this? Who are you?”

We all heard the caller’s cold laugh. Then a click. The call was ended.

“Someone has his phone,” Batiste murmured, gazing at the screen. “Someone took Rich’s phone.”

“Can you hit redial?” Sergeant Anthony suggested.

Batiste punched the screen, then waited. “It went straight to Rich Winkleman’s voice mail.” He handed the phone back to Delia.

Hearing Winks’s voice on the phone message made her start to cry again. I dropped down beside her and tried to comfort her. But it was all I could do to fight back the tears, too.

Chills rolled down my back, and, even though the room was warm, my teeth began to chatter. Shock, I guessed. Shock and horror and disbelief.

And then, Spencer’s bedroom door swung open, and the little guy came walking out, rubbing sleep from his eyes. He gazed around the room, saw the crowd of strangers, and made a beeline to his mom.

“Spencer, go back to bed,” she said. She took his shoulders and started to turn him around gently.

But he stepped away from her grasp. “Did they find Winks?” he asked in a tiny voice. “Is Cousin Winks okay? Can he come tuck me in?”

Heartbreaking. And now the tears were rolling down my cheeks, and I couldn’t help it. I started to sob.

I didn’t hear what Art and Marie said to Spencer. But I saw Art pick him up and carry him to his room.

Detective Batiste stood over Delia and me. “I think you two should go home to your parents,” he said softly. “I want to talk to everyone tomorrow. But for now, I think you need to go home and get some rest.”

I wiped the hot tears from my eyes with the back of my hand. I stood up and helped Delia to her feet. Some ringlets of her hair had fallen over her face, but she made no effort to push them away.

“Do you two need help getting home?” Sergeant Anthony asked.

I shook my head. “I can drive. Thanks.”

I glimpsed Winks’s mother, sitting so still at the table, frozen like a statue. Her hand gripped her glass, but she made no effort to drink from it. Just stared at the wall, her face a total blank.

Then Delia and I were out in the night, the ground shiny and wet with dew, the air carrying a chill, the trees black against the purple sky and still as death.

An ambulance stood at the bottom of the driveway. I grabbed Delia’s arm as I saw two white-uniformed medics trying to slide Winks’s body into a big black plastic bag. A body bag.

A cry of horror escaped Delia’s mouth. I gripped her arm tight in case she started to faint or something.

“He’s going to sit up,” Delia whispered, to herself more than me. “Watch. He’s going to sit up and say it was all a joke.”

But no. The medics were having trouble. Winks’s body slid out from the bag and hit the ground heavily.

Headlights swept over the whole scene, putting the two medics in a spotlight so that their white uniforms gleamed brightly and their troubled faces came into focus.

A car, one of those tiny, square Fiats, stopped sharply and edged to the curb. The driver’s door opened, and a girl climbed out. She left the headlights on and the motor running and came running toward the medics.

In the yellow circles of light, I recognized Morgan. She ran hard toward the medics by the hedge, her hair flying behind her. She was nearly there when she spotted Delia and me.

She stopped. “What’s going on?” she cried. “Is someone hurt?”

Before I could answer, she turned and saw Winks’s face, saw the two uniformed men trying to slide him into the bag again. Saw him. Saw his closed eyes. Saw his legs disappear into the long body bag.

“NOOOOO!” her shriek pierced the deep silence of the night. She pressed her hands to her cheeks and turned away from the sight of the dead body. Turned to Delia and me. “Omigod! It’s Winks? It isn’t Winks—is it?”

Morgan burst into loud, body-shaking sobs. She dropped down beside the hedge. “No. It can’t be. No. No. No. Not Winks.”

Delia and I hurried over to her. She raised her face to us, already swollen with tears. “He . . . he was the only one . . . ,” she stammered. “He was one of the only ones to be nice to me.”

She covered her face and sobbed.

Delia and I exchanged glances. I knew what Delia was thinking.

Either Morgan was an extremely emotional person—or she was putting on quite a show. After all, Morgan had only known Winks for about two weeks.

Had she really felt that close to him so quickly?

Delia had no idea that Winks and Morgan had any kind of relationship at all. We all kept it from her.

We knew Winks wanted to win the bet he had made with Zane and Liam. We knew he had seen Morgan a few times. And we knew Winks had planned to break up with Delia.

But none of us wanted to be responsible for bringing the bad news to Delia. And here was Morgan, acting heartbroken, as if she had lost the love of her life.

Or was I being unfair?

Her tears were real. And her chest-racking sobs seemed real, too.

I heard footsteps on the gravel driveway and turned to see some others leaving the house. Batiste had Mrs. Winkleman’s arm, and she leaned on him as they made their way toward the patrol car at the curb.

Sergeant Anthony followed behind. When he spotted Morgan beside the body bag on the ground, he hurried over to her. “Are you okay?” he asked.

Morgan lowered her hands from her face and nodded.

Sergeant Anthony blinked. Maybe he was surprised by how beautiful she is, even when crying. “Did you know him? Are you a friend?” Anthony demanded.

Morgan nodded. “I was driving home. I saw the ambulance. I . . . I didn’t know.” She turned to Delia and me, and screamed, “What happened? What happened to him?”

Anthony crouched beside Morgan and placed a hand on the shoulder of her jacket. “We don’t really know,” he said softly. “Your friend . . . I’m sorry . . . Your friend . . . He was murdered.”

Morgan let out a choking gasp and covered her face with both hands again.

“We don’t know much more than that,” Anthony murmured.

I watched Mrs. Winkleman climb beside Batiste in the front of his patrol car. They drove away.

Something caught my eye at the far side of the house. I turned and peered through the trees that dotted the front lawn.

“Whoa,” I murmured as I spotted someone hunched against the wall of the house. Someone standing very still. Watching us.

In the square of orange light from the side window, I caught a good view of him. He was weird-looking. He had white-blond hair, closely cropped and spiked. And in the light, his eyes flashed, and I saw that they were silvery, almost no color at all.

He wore a long, black overcoat and pressed against the house as he watched us with those strange, almost blank eyes.

“Hey—!” My voice came out in a choked whisper. “Hey—” I called to Sergeant Anthony.

He turned away from Morgan, his face showing confusion.

“Over there,” I whispered. “Against the house. A man. Who is that?” I pointed.

Anthony climbed to his feet and followed my gaze.

No one there.

The guy had vanished into the shadows.


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