There is still time to enter the contest if you haven’t already! And here is another excerpt from Held For Ransom – Ransom and DJ’s first meeting, when DJ notices a stranger picking up trash. (I really should’ve led with this one, rather than the one from later on – well, live and learn. Did I mention I’m not that great at self-promotion? XD)
The stranger was wearing a hoodie with a logo for the Aldona Raiders—the high-school football team in the next town—so he was someone local. DJ was still pretty sure he’d never seen him before. He would have remembered that narrow face, the long dark lashes cast down as the stranger hunted for cigarette packs and plastic grocery bags in the weeds along the fence.
“You guys must lose a lot of balls in that river,” he said when DJ was close enough.
He was still just as good-looking close up. His hair was dark and floppy, and longer than anyone in Osmar, aside from the Hilsinger cousins, would tolerate. It was almost down to his collar.
“The Reardons have a cottage industry fishing them out downstream,” DJ said. “They train retrievers, and the balls float.” The Aldona guy gave him a skeptical, are-you-shitting-me look, and DJ grinned. “Honest to God. It’s the truth.” He held out a hand. “DJ Lanning.”
“Ransom,” the stranger said. He stripped off his leather work gloves to shake DJ’s hand.
Well, the name fit in, at least. The Hilsingers would probably have named one of their kids Ransom if they’d thought of it. DJ had gone to school with a John Deere, two Harleys, and a Colt. “You’re from up Aldona way?” he asked.
Ransom shrugged. “I’m from all over. I saw you putting up flyers. Lost dog?”
“Lost carnival,” DJ said. Ransom looked confused, so DJ pulled out a wad of flyers. He’d found a piece of clip art showing a circus tent—he figured it was close enough—and below that, he’d thrown together some half-assed copy.
FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY!
He hadn’t noticed ’til he’d printed them out that he’d put the wrong date on them. The carnival was usually the second Saturday of the month, but they were past that now. He’d spent a hand-cramping hour that morning crossing them all out and writing in Saturday’s date with a laundry marker. He’d also put his own number on the flyer without thinking about it. After fixing the first few, putting Inga Hutton’s instead, he gave up and just decided to deal with it.
“Sounds like fun,” Ransom said. “Where is it going to be?”
“At the ball field. Isn’t that on the flyer?” DJ asked. “Goddamn it. Well, everyone in town knows where it is, anyway.”
Ransom flashed a quick, white grin. “Small towns, huh? Wish I was sticking around that long.”
He hooked a thumb through the belt loop of his jeans. DJ realized belatedly that Ransom might be flirting, except it had been so long since anyone had flirted with him that he couldn’t figure out how to respond. Most of Osmar knew that he was gay, which meant the girls had given up a long time ago. As for the gay kids—well, there was that small dating pool thing again. So he said the first thing that came to mind, which was, as usual when DJ tried to get his flirt on, wildly inappropriate.
“That’s okay, it’s probably going to be a disaster.”