Dangerous Moves

(The L & L Mysteries #5)

by Wendy Lohr

What do grease pails, dancing, and a new king have in common? A mystery to solve of course. Lucien and Leyla, best friends and budding sleuths, work to put the pieces together before tragedy strikes. Follow the adventure and misadventures of the teen detectives from hot dancing moves to dangerous encounters to the frigid climax in this exciting tale.


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Chapter 1

“Man, what a day!” Lucien Vintera complained as he plopped into the chair. It was Monday afternoon and he was grateful to finally be in Computer Graphics, the last class of the day. “I swear the teachers have been replaced by sadistic aliens! There’s no way I can get all of my homework done by tomorrow.”

Lucien’s best friend, Leyla Richards, looked up from her web surfing and agreed sympathetically, “I know what you mean. We’ve got all those calculus problems to do, an English essay to finish, a history paper to write. I know I’ll be living at my desk when I get home today!”

“Yeah, and don’t forget about the art project and the physics homework,” Lucien added with a forlorn sigh. “And I can’t even begin any of it until I get off work tonight. I’ll be lucky if I’m able to get to sleep before midnight!”

Lucien and Leyla were seniors and would be graduating in another month. But for some reason, all of their teachers had decided to pile on the homework. Unfortunately, Lucien was not doing so well in calculus, even after receiving some intense tutoring from one of his classmates. (Actually, it had been more like intense dating, but he had received some tutoring in between those dates.)

And because of his weak grade in calculus, his dad was threatening to take away his motorcycle for two weeks. That was his only mode of transportation since he didn’t want to rely on his twin, Romi, to drive him around. So, Lucien definitely needed to get his butt in gear where his calc grade was concerned.

“Oh my god, Lucien! Did you see this?!” Leyla suddenly exclaimed, drawing Lucien out of his concerned musings.

Glancing over at her computer screen, he saw that she was on the website for the Ansalucian Gazette, a national news organization. The headline she was pointing at read ‘King Morlan To Relinquish Throne!’

Lucien shrugged and replied nonchalantly, “Yeah, I know. Prince Frederick’s going to take over and the change is supposed to take place at the Independence Day Ball. And I’m being forced to put on a formal tux and attend. When Dad got home a few nights ago, he dropped that bombshell on us. And I hate wearing tuxedos!”

Lucien’s dad was the Captain of the Royal Guard and in charge of King Morlan’s security detail. According to his dad, there had been talks going on for a while now about the king wanting to retire and spend more time with his wife. Of course, that meant Prince Frederick would take over as the king. Lucien was excited for the young prince, but hadn’t really thought to share that news with Leyla, which he suddenly realized he was about to regret.

“You’ve known for a few days now and you didn’t tell me?!” she exclaimed in agitation, her British accent thickening with each word.

Trying not to laugh at her change in accent (it never failed to amuse him when it happened), Lucien held up his hands in mock defense and stated, “I didn’t think about it, Leyla. Besides, what’s the big deal? We all knew that Prince Frederick would eventually take over.”

“Yeah, but you had inside information and it would have been nice to actually know this before seeing it in the headlines!” she argued.

“Why are you so upset about it? Are you worried that when he becomes king he won’t notice you anymore?” Lucien teased, a mischievous grin spreading across his face.

Leyla blushed a deep shade of red and sputtered, “Shut up, Lucien! That is so not funny! I don’t expect him to notice me now, let alone after he’s king. It’s just, well, oh never mind! It doesn’t matter. Next time, though, when you are privy to something this major, would you please consider sharing it with me? Unless, of course, you were told not to.”

He had just been handed the perfect out to this argument, knowing he could fall behind the excuse that his dad had told him not to share. But that really hadn’t been the case, so Lucien replied truthfully, knowing that Leyla would eventually find out, “I really didn’t think it was something that I needed to immediately tell you about, Leyla. But, if I’m in possession of any good gossip in the future, you’ll be the first to hear about it from me. Okay?”

She grinned at that, her sapphire eyes twinkling as she responded, “Okay. So, is Prince Frederick nervous or excited?”

“How should I know? I don’t talk with him on a daily basis, Leyla,” Lucien responded in exasperation and then teased, “But, next time I do have a chat with him, I’ll let him know that you’ve been asking about him.”

“Oh my god, don’t you dare do that, Lucien Vintera!” Leyla chastised and he laughed, knowing that was exactly what he was going to do if he was presented with the opportunity. Lucien had known for a long time now that his friend had a major crush on the prince, especially after they had been introduced at a palace ball and had danced together. He’d never been able to get the entire story from her, but just one mention of the prince’s name and Leyla would immediately start blushing.

The ringing of the bell interrupted their bantering and Lucien turned his attention to the 3D modeling project he was working on for his final project in the class. Time passed quickly and he was soon gathering his things, saying goodbye to Leyla, and heading off to his job at Chino’s.

For the next few hours, Lucien didn’t have time to think as there was a major rush of orders for different flavors of coffee drinks. Things only slowed down as the end of his shift approached and he was finally able to take a deep breath and relax.

Gathering up the trash he had generated at his workstation, Lucien headed out to the back alley where the trash dumpsters were lined up haphazardly against a fence. Tossing the trash bag into the first open dumpster, he paused in the dimly lit area and thought about his part-time job. Currently he was working five nights a week at Chino’s. But, soon he would have to reconsider those hours.

Lucien had received a letter from the prestigious art institute that was part of the University of Ansalucia in Madria, offering him a full scholarship to attend classes there. Since he only lived forty-five minutes away from the university, he was hoping to be able to negotiate a new work schedule with Chino Fosconi, the owner. He really liked working for Chino and didn’t want to give up the job entirely if he didn’t have to.

Turning to head back inside the establishment, some voices caught his attention and he paused for a moment to see if he recognized them.

“I told you, I can’t give you the full details of the operation at this time. The gent that’s hired us hasn’t given them to me. All I know is that we’ll have to be ready by the time that big fancy royal ball comes along, ‘cause that’s when we’ll make our grab,” a raspy male voice stated.

Suddenly alert, Lucien quietly crept closer to the dumpsters that were between him and the voices. He heard another male voice say, “Sorry, boss, I just wanted to know what I was getting into, that’s all.”

“Well, leave the planning to me, you big oaf. The only thing I know is that we’re supposed to do something before the king makes his big announcement. So, stop pestering me about details when I’ve already told you I don’t have them. Got it?” the guy chastised in irritation and his companion muttered, “Yes, boss.”

“Now, let’s grab these grease pails and get out of here,” the man rasped and Lucien heard receding footsteps. He cautiously peered around the dumpsters and saw two men shabbily dressed walking away, carrying a heavy grease container between them. The one on the right was completely bald and walked with an exaggerated limp. The other one was really big and lumbered along next to his partner.

Debating on whether he should follow them or not, Lucien was startled when Chino suddenly spoke, “Lucien, there you are.”

Flinching at the sound of his boss’s voice, Lucien straightened up quickly, turned around, and exclaimed, “Oh, hey, Chino! I was just finishing taking the trash out.”

“Ah, good. I just wanted to let you know that Leyla’s inside and she’s asking for you,” Chino shared with a wink.

Ignoring Chino’s innuendo, Lucien nodded and stated nonchalantly, “Thanks, Chino.”

Heading back inside, he found Leyla sitting on one of the barstools at his coffee station and chatting with some guy he didn’t recognize. Walking up to the counter, Lucien greeted, “Hey, Leyla. What’s up?”

The petite blonde turned to him, grinned, and replied, “Hi, Lucien! Mum and Briggs were being kind of cozy in the living room so I thought I’d escape for a while. Are you getting ready to get off work?”

“Yeah, I’m just about finished. If you got time, I need to chat with you about a few things,” he responded vaguely. Turning to the guy sitting next to her, he continued, “I’m about to close my station up, but I could still get you something.”

“No, I just wanted to chat with Leyla for a second. But it looks like my friends are waiting for me. So, I’ll see you around, okay?” the guy told Leyla, giving her a flirtatious grin.

“See you later, Jeremy!” Leyla agreed in a friendly tone and turned to watch the guy saunter over to one of the booths where his friends were waiting.

“So, are you and Jeremy going out or something?” Lucien asked curiously as he made a caramel macchiato for her.

Blushing slightly, she answered evasively, “No, he was just chatting with me.”

“But you want him to ask you out, don’t you?”

Lucien was trying hard not to laugh as her face got even redder and she stammered, “Um, well, maybe. I don’t know. I’m probably not his type.”

“Whatever, Leyla. If you’re interested, I can hook you up with him,” Lucien offered, waggling his eyebrows teasingly at her as he slid her drink across the counter to her.

“I don’t need you hooking me up with anybody,” she protested, sounding a little embarrassed. “I can get my own dates any time I want. If he’s interested, I’m sure he’ll ask.”

“Well, if you change your mind, I’m always here to help,” he teased.

Seeing that Leyla was determined to ignore his teasing, Lucien turned his attention to cleaning up his work station. As he finished the last of his cleaning, Leyla handed him her empty cup and he threw it away. Grabbing his backpack, he said goodnight to Chino and walked out into the cool, April evening with Leyla. As they approached his motorcycle, she asked, “So, if you’re done aggravating me about Jeremy, did you want to talk about what’s on your mind?”

He looked around to see if anyone could hear them and answered softly, “When I was taking out the trash, I overheard something really interesting.”

Looking at him curiously, she asked, “Well, what did you overhear?”

“I’m not really sure exactly. I need some time to get my thoughts together. I’m going to take my bike for a spin. Did you want to come with me?” he responded. Then remembering that he didn’t have any helmets, he continued, “That is, if you don’t mind riding around for a few minutes without a helmet on.”

“Well, as long as you go slow, Lucien, I’ll ride along,” she relented and he smiled gratefully, securing his backpack to the motorcycle’s small luggage rack over the back tire before hopping on and motioning for her to join him.

That was one of the great things about their friendship. Leyla seemed to understand when he just needed to think things through before talking about them. Since they had become such good friends, they had gone for rides several times on his motorcycle just so he could get his thoughts together before he shared them with her.

Once she was settled with her arms lightly around his waist, he fired up the bike and took off down the road. He decided to take a roundabout way to a park that was located behind his house and they rode in silence while he contemplated what he’d overheard. It sounded as though someone was plotting something bad before the announcement that the king planned to make at the annual Independence Day Ball. And he was pretty sure that announcement referred to Prince Frederick becoming the new king. With so little information though, he wasn’t sure what he could or should do about it.

Arriving at the park, he cut the engine and waited for Leyla to get off the back. After he dismounted, they walked into the park a little ways and sat down on a bench at the edge of the lake under a small pole lamp. Turning to his friend, he told Leyla exactly what he’d overheard in the alleyway and described the two guys to her. She listened intently and stated seriously, “That’s pretty intense, Lucien. What do you think the guy meant by ‘make our grab’?”

“I’m not entirely sure,” Lucien answered truthfully. “But, I was hoping that you might want to help me figure that out.”

Even though the conversation was serious, he watched Leyla’s eyes light up at the idea of solving a new mystery. She nodded enthusiastically and stated, “Of course I want to help you figure this out! Count me in!”

“Great! I was hoping you’d say that,” Lucien told her. “I still can’t get my head around what they meant by ‘make our grab’.”

They were both silent for a moment, contemplating the various meanings when Leyla finally offered up, “Well, maybe it means they intend to steal something?”

“I guess that’s possible,” Lucien agreed thoughtfully. “I mean, the palace is full of valuables. But who would be crazy enough to try and steal something during the Independence Day Ball? The place will be swarming with security, even more so than usual, not to mention all of the actual people in attendance that might ‘accidentally’ see someone stealing something.”

“Hmmm, there are two questions that I think we need to find the answers to: Who would be crazy enough to attempt stealing something at the palace? And, what is so valuable that would make them want to attempt it?” Leyla deduced.

“Both very good questions,” Lucien agreed, crossing his arms and leaning back on the bench.

“This ball is three weeks away, right?” Leyla asked and Lucien nodded his head in confirmation. “And from what I’ve read, all the tickets were sold out months ago.”

“Yeah, that’s true. What exactly are you getting at?” Lucien questioned in confusion.

“Well, if some kind of theft or something is going to happen at the ball and we don’t figure it out before the ball takes place, then I think we should find some way to attend,” Leyla explained matter-of-factly. “But how, if all the tickets are already gone?”

“Ah, I see what you’re getting at. That’s a good idea,” Lucien responded. “Getting you in might be a problem. Dad secured tickets for me, Romi, and Mum a while ago. I’m not sure he can get another ticket for you, but maybe he’ll have some ideas.”

“Well, we definitely need to talk to your dad anyway to tell him about what you overheard. So, after we tell him about that, maybe you can ask him to see if he can somehow conjure up a ticket for me,” Leyla suggested hopefully.

Having solved several mysteries together in the past and getting into some dangerous situations, Lucien’s dad had made them promise to inform him if they came across any new mysteries. Because of that promise and because of what Lucien had overheard, it made sense to talk to his dad, especially since it seemed to be something that the Royal Guard should investigate. Not that that would prevent Lucien and Leyla from conducting their own investigation. Surely his dad would agree that having an extra couple of people looking into the conversation Lucien had overheard would be a good thing.

“Sure, I’ll try to remember and ask him. If there’s a way to get a ticket, Dad will probably know,” Lucien stated confidently. “So, I guess we should go see if he’s home and let him know what’s going on then.”

Leyla agreed and they both stood and headed back to Lucien’s motorcycle. As Lucien drove them to his house, he contemplated how to approach his dad with what he’d overheard. Not having any definite ideas, Lucien pulled into the driveway and cut off the engine. Climbing off the bike, he and Leyla went inside. Closing the front door, he heard voices in the living room and motioned for his friend to follow him down the hall, where they found both his parents sitting on the couch watching the news.

His mother looked a little surprised to see Leyla and greeted warmly, “Oh, hi, Leyla. I wasn’t expecting you here tonight. Do you two have some school stuff you have to work on?”

Lucien shook his head and answered for Leyla, “Um, no, Mum. Actually we wanted to talk to Dad for a minute.”

Seeming to sense that they wanted to speak with him in private, his dad stood up and suggested, “Sure, let’s go into my office. I’ll be back in a minute, Love.”

“Okay, Ramón,” Lucien’s mother stated, looking at the teenagers curiously before settling back on the couch.

Lucien’s father was an older version of him, with the same long, jet black hair that he always wore pulled back, although his was starting to grey a bit at the temples. The twins had also inherited their father’s violet-colored eyes and imposing six-foot-five height. Letting his father pass by out of the living room, Lucien and Leyla followed him into another room and closed the door before sitting down in front of the massive mahogany desk that his dad sometimes worked at.

With his father looking at them expectantly, Lucien began telling him about the events of the evening and what he’d overheard, not leaving anything out. Then he finished, “I’m really sorry I didn’t hear more, Dad. I can draw some sketches for you of what the two men looked like from behind. I don’t know how helpful that would be, but it wouldn’t take me long to do that.”

“That’s alright, son,” his father assured him. “Any information, any details that you can provide will be more than what we had before. It appears from the information you just gave me that someone or some party is planning to steal or take something of value from the palace during the ball. I was concerned that we might have trouble at this event.”

His father paused for a moment, eyeing the two teens speculatively before continuing, “As I’m sure you both are aware, the king is planning to retire and will relinquish the throne to Prince Frederick. He’ll be making the announcement at the ball and Prince Frederick will officially become the king after the formal coronation ceremony the next day. Because Prince Frederick will be moving into the official Office of the King, many valuable pieces of art that belong to him are being moved there during this time frame. Apparently someone has decided to take advantage of the movement of the art and you hearing that conversation just confirms it.”

“Excuse me, Captain Vintera, but I’m a little confused,” Leyla spoke up. “Why would anything be moved during the Independence Day Ball? Why couldn’t it be moved either before or after the ball?”

“Well, Leyla, the way this works is that King Morlan will still be using the office the day of the ball to have various meetings with the many different dignitaries that are coming for this event. So, the office will still need to have his touch, so to speak, until he is done using it, which will be around five that evening,” Lucien’s dad explained. “After the office is ‘officially’ closed for business that evening, a moving crew will come in and begin taking out the furniture and artwork that Prince Frederick doesn’t want and will be moving furniture and artwork that he does want into the office. By doing this, Prince Frederick will have his touch on the office when he receives his first dignitaries after his coronation.”

“That just seems strange. I mean, wouldn’t it just make more sense to handle that kind of move over the weekend or something?” Leyla questioned further.

His dad chuckled and agreed, “Sure, that would make sense. But, what you may not realize is that perceptions and appearances are everything when you are dealing with dignitaries and nobility. The décor that Prince Frederick chooses will actually show visitors to his office a little bit about his character. His taste in art down to what sort of paperweight he has on his desk will mean a multitude of things to different visitors. Whatever he decides to reveal of himself through his taste in artwork and décor will have to be presented at the very first meeting so he can set the tone with those he will be working closely with.”

“Wow, I hadn’t actually thought about artwork as a political message,” Lucien mused aloud. “In some ways, that just seems so wrong.”

“That’s because you’re an artist, son,” his father observed with a lazy grin that Lucien seemed to have inherited from him. “Art is going to mean something completely different to you than it would to a king or a president.”

“I guess,” Lucien remarked, unable to really get his head around art as a political statement.

“Captain Vintera,” Leyla interrupted, “you mentioned something about a moving crew taking care of rearranging the office for when Prince Frederick takes over. Is that crew part of the palace staff?”

“No, actually, I believe Briggs took care of making the arrangements with a contractor. We had used them before and had been satisfied with their work, so Briggs arranged for them to take on this contract,” Lucien’s father responded and then grinned knowingly. “And before you say anything, Leyla, I believe I know where you’re going with that. The crew has been checked out thoroughly, but I’ll have Briggs look into that angle and see if there is anything we might have missed, especially now that we have this new piece of information.”

“Oh, alright,” Leyla responded sheepishly. “I should have already known that you all would have that angle covered.”

“It’s okay, Leyla. It’s actually intelligent on your part to bring that up. Now that Lucien has overheard this conversation, we’ll at least have something to follow up on. Who knows? Maybe we’ll unravel this before the ball ever takes place.”

“Oh, Dad, that reminds me; Leyla had actually come up with a couple of good questions while we were chatting about this earlier,” Lucien added to the conversation. “We were wondering who would be crazy enough to attempt a theft, especially during the ball. And we were wondering what it is that they would want to steal. I mean, I know you mentioned the artwork that belongs to Prince Frederick. And I know that there are a lot of valuables in the palace. But with all the guards and all the guests wandering around, I would think it would be too risky.”

“Perhaps, but you have to remember, Lucien, it’s going to be pretty chaotic. We’re celebrating our independence as a country and the guards are going to be stretched pretty thin as it is making sure that the Royal Family, the dignitaries, and the grounds are kept secure. So, it’s actually the perfect opportunity for someone to slip in, take something, and slip back out again without drawing any attention to themselves,” his dad explained. “But, you both do bring up valid questions which I’ll have the guards working on to try and answer before the ball gets here.”

Lucien and Leyla fell silent, neither of them entirely sure of what to ask next. After a few moments, his father continued, “So, Lucien, you said you could draw me a sketch of the two men you overheard tonight. Why don’t you try and get that to me in the morning before I leave for work? I can start having some of the guards look into this and see what we can come up with.”

“No problem, Dad. I’ll draw the sketch tonight after I finish my homework,” Lucien promised and then cringed inwardly as he realized that it would now probably be one in the morning before he finally got to sleep.

They all three stood and Lucien caught a look from Leyla. Remembering she didn’t have a ticket to the ball, he asked, “Oh, yeah, Dad, is there any way we could get a ticket to the ball for Leyla?”

Looking at the two of them for a moment, his dad grinned knowingly and replied, “I had a feeling you two were going to try and wiggle your way into this case. Listen, Lucien, I actually think it would be great to have an extra set of eyes at the ball, but all of the tickets are gone. I was lucky to get the ones for you twins and your mother. I really am sorry, but I don’t know of any other tickets that are available at this time. I’ll keep it in mind, though, and if I come across one, I’ll be sure to secure it for you, Leyla.”

“Thank you, Captain Vintera,” Leyla said politely and his father nodded as they all headed back out into the hallway.

“Well, I need to take Leyla home before her mother starts to worry. I’ll be back in a little bit, Dad,” Lucien stated.

“Be careful, and say hello to your mother for me, Leyla,” his father requested.

“I will,” Leyla responded and they headed back out to his motorcycle.

After a short ride, Lucien pulled into Leyla’s driveway. Holding the bike steady, he waited for her to climb off and listened as she observed, “Well, at least your dad is growing more accustomed to us wanting to solve mysteries.”

“Yeah, I think Dad realizes that he can’t really keep us from getting involved,” Lucien agreed with a grin. “Anyway, get some rest. We’ll put our heads together in the morning and see if we can come up with a way to secure you a ticket to the ball.”

She nodded and grinned excitedly, “Alright, partner. I’ll see you at school tomorrow.”

Giving her a mock salute, he waited until she was inside the house and then pulled away, wondering how they were going to come by an elusive Independence Day Ball ticket.

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