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Just Fooling Around

By´╝ÜJulie Kenner & Kathleen O'Reilly

Just Fooling Around_ Darcy's Dark Day_Reg's RescueDevon's Dilemma - Julie Kenner & Kathleen O'Reilly

Prologue




April 1, 1980

THE WORLD HAD NEVER SEEN four such dejected children. It was the evening of April Fools’ Day, normally a time for hoaxes and pranks, but for the Franklin family, it was a dark day indeed. The full moon glowed with an eerie orange light, casting shadows on the barren midwestern farm and the small garden of gravestones, one newly dug.

Even the animals were smart enough to stay away when the events of April Fools’ began to unfold. The cows watched warily from the far side of the pasture; owls hooted nervously, waiting for midnight to pass.

In the distance, the lights from the old farmhouse were all out, except for the last remaining guttering sparks of a kitchen fire nearly extinguished. Mother and Father Franklin were safe in their bed, pretending the day had passed without incident. It was only the children who were still awake, counting the ticks of the clock to midnight, counting the moments when their world passed from disaster back to normal once again.

The oldest boy, Cam, kicked at the marble gravestone, choosing to defy the fates, as was his way. His eye was blackened from a spirited encounter earlier in the day. At school, Leo Meeks, a larger and older student, had the spineless audacity to taunt Cam about the legend of the Franklin Curse, never an easy subject with any of the Franklin children. Cam, choosing to ignore the school principal’s stern warning, had lit into the bully, but had discounted the newly waxed floors. So instead of ramming his fist into Leo’s meaty face, he had instead rammed his own face into the nearest bank of lockers.

“She should have told us,” he demanded of absolutely no one in particular, proceeding to kick at the stone until his foot began to ache. “She should have told somebody before she died. We can beat this. We just need to know how.”

The eldest daughter, Devon, popped up from behind the lightning-split elm tree, a position she had chosen because it was statistically unlikely that lightning would strike twice in the same place. The tree also provided an excellent vantage point. “You heard Mom. Grandmother was batty as a fruitcake. There’s no way to beat it, Cam. You and Reg are wasting your time.”

The youngest child, Darcy, dug her hand in the grass, and happily picked out a four-leaf clover. “Look! It’s a lucky clover. I think it’s a sign from Grandmother that we’re not cursed after all.”

Devon looked at the clover and scoffed, “That’s a weed.”

Darcy first sniffed then folded the clover in her pocket. “It’s a pretty weed, and I think Grandmother would want us to keep it…even if she was batty.”

Reg, who was the most scholarly of the four, shook his head, his keen gaze scanning the night skies as if the answers were in the stars. “She wasn’t that batty. She said it started in the eighteenth century, with Olivia d’Espry, but she doesn’t know the story—she doesn’t know why. That’s what I want to find out.”

Cam muttered something vaguely scatological in disagreement, because he sensed manure when he heard it. “It’s just a story,” he muttered.

“The pieces fit,” Reg countered. “Olivia came from France to New Orleans with her father. Our family tree cuts through New Orleans, too.”

“And that’s when Great-grandpa Franklin first wrote about the curse,” Devon said. “Or great-great. Or something. Anyway, back when he was in New Orleans.”

“Archives don’t lie,” Reg said. “History doesn’t lie. It makes sense.”

“The hell it does,” Cam said. “It is what it is.”

“It will make sense,” Reg said. “I’m going to figure it out. I’m going to stop it.”

They all looked at him, not believing, but then Reg’s watch alarm began to chirp. Midnight.

Another day had passed. Another year’s reprieve. Another year to hope.





1




April 1, five years earlier, 9:30 p.m.

“I DON’T CARE what the bone-headed insurance company is telling you. That’s my social-security number, there are no inverted digits and I didn’t steal it.”

Safe on the other side of the E.R. ward, Dr. Jenna Ferrar watched the scene unfold, and shook her head in chagrin. Cameron Franklin’s belligerent tone would get him nowhere with Bertrice, the guardian of hospital registrations, a woman secretly known as Ballbuster Bertie. After four years of this, you’d think he would know better. Apparently not.

Still, Jenna didn’t understand how Bertie could get mad at somebody with a cast on his arm, and those deep, honey-brown eyes that had the ability to snuff out a woman’s virginity with one smoldering glance.

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