Spanish Intrigue

(The L & L Mysteries #1)

by Wendy Lohr

Follow Leyla, an intelligent and sensible girl, as she joins forces with Lucien, the risk-taking new guy at school, to solve a thrilling mystery full of danger and humorous situations. In their first adventure, they uncover a dangerous plot that threatens to crumble the political structure of one of their country’s most powerful allies. Racing against time, the two teenagers are faced with challenges to decipher cryptic messages, foil the attempts of a political assassination, and reveal the identity of the mastermind. As Leyla and Lucien delve deeper into the mystery, they struggle with the everyday life of high school drama, concerned parents, and a surprising new friendship.


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Chapter 1

Leyla Richard’s long blond ponytail swished back and forth as she reluctantly made her way to her last class of the day. Even though she was really good with computers, she wasn’t looking forward to her computer graphics class and was glad that the first week of her senior year was coming to a close. Being a sixteen year old senior had its challenges, most of them relating to keeping up with her older classmates and not falling behind in any of her more difficult classes. Leyla had skipped a grade when she and her mother had moved from England to the small village of San Lucia when she was ten. The village was located in the country of Ansalucia, which placed a high value on academics. The San Lucia Primary School had recognized her advanced academic abilities and had recommended she move to a higher grade.

The early September sunlight was streaming in through the windows of the computer lab and Leyla had to pause for a moment as she entered the room in order to adjust to the bright light glaring off of some of the computer screens. Looking around, she saw her cousin, Mick Forrester, sitting with some friends of theirs. She walked over to join them, took the empty seat her cousin had saved for her, and sighed as she reluctantly pulled out her computer graphics textbook. Why couldn’t I have more classes like Calculus or Physics, she wondered.

“Aw, cheer up, cuz,” Mick greeted her with a sympathetic grin. “Just one more hour and we can escape for the weekend!”

She smiled back as she half-heartedly complained, “Why can’t this be a computer programming class instead of a graphics class? I’m horrible at artsy things! And besides, we already have to take Art Appreciation. It makes no sense!”

“If you had it your way, all of your classes would be based in logic,” Mick teased, his sympathetic grin turning into an amused one.

Leyla’s sapphire eyes sparkled as she retorted back, “Well, at least with logic, there’s some sense of order or pattern to follow. Art’s just too subjective.”

Their friends, Romi (short for Romero) and Lucien Vintera, were laughing pretty hard at them by now and Leyla gave them a mock glare, which made them laugh even harder. They were new to the school and even though she’d only known them a couple of days, she already considered them good friends. They were identical twins and to Leyla’s amusement, had become the instant heart throbs of almost every girl at San Lucia High School.

It’s not that Leyla was oblivious to their good looks. They both wore their long black hair pulled back at the nape of their necks. They also shared similar heights and builds and the same unusual violet colored eyes. But having interacted with the twins over the last few days, she had learned that there was more to them than their good looks and that their similarities seemed to end with physical appearances.

Romi, as she was discovering, was the more outgoing of the twins and had become really good friends with Mick. He dressed a lot like the other guys in school; polo shirts and khaki pants. He also had a more polished charm than his brother, which had already caused several girls to sigh and giggle whenever he interacted with them.

Lucien, on the other hand, seemed to have more of a devil-may-care attitude. Leyla had yet to see him dress in anything other than black t-shirts and jeans and she wondered if he even owned any other type of clothes. She had learned over the last couple of days that he was a very talented artist, so she was sure he found her comment about preferring logical courses highly amusing.

Fortunately, Mick decided to change the subject and asked her, “Are you still going to Chino’s after school?”

Chino’s was a coffee and ice cream shop that was just a couple of blocks from the high school. It was the favorite hangout for the teenagers and Leyla usually tried to go there with her friends at least once a week. It used to be an old pub that the owner, Chino Fosconi, had converted, keeping the dark wooden bar as part of the establishment. So it was not an uncommon sight for teenagers to be sitting at the bar and drinking milk shakes and coffees. But Leyla and her friends liked to grab a booth that was big enough to fit everyone. It was always noisy in Chino’s with yelling teenagers and the latest hit music playing on the loud speakers.

“Absolutely,” she confirmed with a grin. “Oh, and Mum wanted me to remind you that we’d better not be late for dinner at your house; you know how she can get.”

Her mother was a stickler for being on time and hated being even a minute late for something. Leyla always found that to be an odd trait for someone who made a living writing best-selling novels. It never ceased to amaze her that her mother seemed to be lost for hours writing, but if something was planned for a certain time, she never needed to be reminded.

“Yeah, I know. Don’t worry; we’ll be there in time,” he assured her in an amused tone. Turning to the twins, he asked, “Are you all going to come with us?”

“Where? To Chino’s or to dinner?” Romi asked with a mischievous grin.

Mick laughed and answered, “Both, if you want. My parents won’t mind.”

“That’s okay; I was just kidding. But I can probably go to Chino’s for a while,” Romi responded.

Leyla turned to Lucien, who was sitting next to her, and asked, “What about you, Lucien? Did you want to come to Chino’s with us too?”

“Actually, I’ll be there, but I’ll be working,” he stated with a lazy grin. “The owner hired me a few days ago and tonight’s supposed to be my first night.”

Surprised, Leyla exclaimed, “That’s really cool, Lucien! Chino’s is the best! I hope your first night goes well.”

“Thanks, Leyla. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be making coffees for you guys or something,” he added.

She laughed and teased, “Well, I’m very particular about my caramel macchiato, so it better be perfect!”

He chuckled, gave her a mock salute, and teased back, “I’ll do my very best, Miss Richards!”

Smiling at his antics, she turned her attention to Mr. Hanson, who had just walked into the room. Mr. Hanson was an energetic teacher in his mid-thirties, with a stocky build and a completely bald head. He had been teaching the computer graphics class for the last couple of years and was well-liked by most of the students.

As the teacher began the demonstration for the in-class assignment, Leyla lost focus as her mind began to wander. Even though it had been six years since she and her mother had moved to San Lucia, Leyla had come to love her new country and new life and rarely ever thought about her earlier childhood days in England. Of course, if it hadn’t been for Mick, she probably would not have adjusted near as well to the major change. He actually was the reason her mother had allowed her to go ahead and skip a grade because she would be in classes with him and he could look after her.

Leyla’s parents had gone through a pretty nasty divorce and when it was all over, her father had taken everything and had signed over full custody of Leyla to her mother. Her mother, completely devastated and penniless from the divorce, had taken Leyla and moved to Ansalucia to live with her brother, Leyla’s uncle, until she could afford to buy a house. So, Mick had become Leyla’s best friend and confidante, helping her to cope with the aftermath of the divorce.

To this day, Leyla had yet to hear anything from her father. After the initial shock had worn off, anger had replaced those feelings and she swore she would never have anything to do with the man that had hurt her and her mother so terribly. So, she now rarely ever thought of him and was grateful that her mother had managed to become so successful with her writing. That success had given her mother the confidence she needed and had instilled a sense of independence in Leyla.

Mick was the only one of their group of friends that knew what really happened and why Leyla didn’t have any contact with her father. He had been wonderful, helping her to adjust and introducing her to his friends. Over the years, Mick had been protective of her and always stood by her. But she was learning to take care of herself and rarely needed his help anymore.

The sound of Mr. Hanson’s voice instructing, “Alright, so get started on your smiley face logos and make sure you upload them to me before you leave class today,” startled Leyla from her thoughts.

Realizing she’d tuned out of the entire lecture, she looked at her computer screen in panic. Leyla had no idea where to begin and only had a vague notion of what the assignment really was. Surreptitiously looking around at her other classmates’ computers, she saw that most everyone had at least a circle on their screen, some even with eyes already. Nervously, she began looking through the programs’ drawing tools, but couldn’t seem to locate a circle and the panic began to rise to a higher level.

Glancing anxiously over at what Lucien was doing, in hopes of figuring out what was going on, she was amazed at the image he was creating. It was a really cool pirate smiley face, complete with an extravagant hat and eye-patch. She reddened slightly as he looked up from his work and asked curiously, “Is something wrong, Leyla?”

“Oh, sorry, Lucien; I didn’t mean to interrupt you. But that’s a really cool smiley face. That would look awesome as the soccer teams’ logo,” she complimented, trying to cover up her embarrassment.

Mick was the team captain for the school’s soccer team and Leyla had spent many Saturday mornings watching the games. The San Lucia Pirates were one of the best teams in the league in spite of the horrible pirate logo and mascot they had. She had heard Mick and the other players complaining about it for years and had wondered why no one had suggested changing it to something better.

“I take it the soccer team here is called the Pirates,” he observed.

“Yes, and you can ask Mick about them. He’s the team captain. All I know is that the team’s logo is pretty lame and it really needs to be changed,” Leyla asserted.

Then remembering the trouble she was having finding the circle tool and wondering what the assignment really was, she asked sheepishly, “Um, could you tell me where the circle tool is in this program? I kind of tuned out during the lecture and missed half of what Mr. Hanson said and now I’m kind of lost.”

Grinning broadly, he nodded and moved his chair over to her computer. He explained the assignment before taking her mouse and pointing out where some of the basic tools were that she needed to complete it. After a few moments, Leyla felt confident enough to tackle the assignment by herself and said gratefully, “Thanks, Lucien. Sorry to have pulled you away from your stuff.”

“No problem. I don’t mind helping you out. Just let me know if you get stuck again, okay?” he told her and she nodded with a smile.

By the time class ended, Leyla was satisfied with her rather plain smiley face and uploaded it for the teacher to review. Relieved that the class was finally over, she grabbed her stuff and left with the others. Heading to her locker, she got some books she would need to do her homework over the weekend. Her friends, except Lucien who had already left for work, were waiting impatiently by the fountain out in front of the school by the time she got there.

Making their way down the street to Chino’s, Leyla looked around at her friends and had to smile at the eclectic group. There was Dominic and Denise Phillips, siblings with thick, auburn hair, bright green eyes, and a pale complexion with freckles. Walking beside them was Peter Lawson, a lanky boy of African heritage with a smooth, shaved head, a beaky nose, and chocolate eyes behind wire-rimmed glasses. And last, but not least, was Sylvie Benson. She was Leyla’s closest female friend and had long black tresses and expressive, light blue eyes.

As the group entered Chino’s, Leyla was hit with a blast of noise from the dozens of students that were already there. They were lucky to find a table big enough for all of them and Leyla took a seat between Sylvie and Mick. Since the place was already packed with teenagers, Chino himself was helping to take orders and stopped at their table to ask what they wanted. The owner was a retired Ansalucian Air Force pilot with sharp, hazel eyes that missed nothing going on around him.

After Chino left to fill their orders, Mick said above the crowd noise, “Hey, Romi, the soccer team is still looking for some players, if you and Lucien are interested. Dominic and I are already on the team, but you can come to Monday’s practice and talk with the coach.”

Romi chuckled, as if he’d heard some kind of joke, and stated in amusement, “Lucien doesn’t play soccer, Mick. He’s too wrapped up in his art. But I’ll definitely be there. What do I need to bring?”

While the boys chatted about soccer, Leyla turned to Sylvie, who was urgently nudging her in the ribs with her elbow, and asked in exasperation, “What is it, Sylvie?”

Sylvie pointed over towards the bar and Leyla looked to see Lucien standing at one of the drink stations, making some kind of coffee drink. Looking back at Sylvie, she observed, “Okay, so we know that Lucien is working here.”

Sighing, Sylvie stated impatiently, “Come on, Leyla. Did you not also notice that Monique and her cronies were practically hanging over the bar?”

Looking back, Leyla realized that Sylvie was right. Monique Farquay was one of the richest girls in school and was also the sworn enemy of Sylvie. The two of them were forever competing or fighting about something. From the first day that Lucien and Romi had shown up at school, Monique had been torn between which one she wanted to date more. I guess she finally decided on Lucien, Leyla thought to herself in amusement.

“Okay, so what? As soon as he finishes their drinks, they’ll have to move on,” Leyla reassured her friend matter-of-factly.

Leyla was logical by nature, which was a trait that normally kept Sylvie’s more whimsical side grounded. As she continued to watch Monique lean even further over the bar to say something to Lucien, she calculated the odds of the girl actually falling over the counter and grinned at the thought.

“Well, I think it’s rather tawdry of her and I think we should do something about it,” Sylvie stated firmly, sounding pleased with her use of an oddly descriptive word.

“Uh-oh, I know that voice,” Leyla grumbled good-naturedly. “Sylvie, if you like Lucien, then you go to his rescue. You don’t need me for that.”

“But Leyla, it will be more effective if there are two of us, don’t you agree?” Sylvie reasoned and Leyla groaned, knowing she was going to be pulled into this whether she wanted to or not.

“Oh, alright, let’s get it over with. I would really just like to enjoy my drink and hang out,” Leyla stated in exasperation, but knew she couldn’t stay annoyed at her friend for long.

Sylvie grinned and exclaimed, “You’re the best, Leyla! Hey, Mick, can you let us out? We need to go help a friend real quick.”

Mick looked towards the bar to see what was going on, spotted Monique, and joked, “Yeah, and while you’re up, give Lucien our condolences!”

Leyla had to laugh as he slid out of the booth to let her and Sylvie out. Not sure what Sylvie actually planned to do, she decided to take her cue from her spirited friend and was silent as they approached the bar. As they got closer, she could hear Monique gushing, “You’re so talented, Lucien! I’ve never had anyone make my drink so quickly before and it turn out so great!”

Leyla almost gagged at Monique’s obvious attempt to compliment her way into wrangling a date from Lucien and wondered why some girls had to be so brazen. Looking over at her friend, she saw Sylvie cross her arms and tap her foot impatiently as she stated forcefully, “Monique, others are trying to order here. If you have your drink, then move on!”

Leyla glanced over at Lucien, who seemed to be completely oblivious to what was happening around him as he quickly made the various coffee drinks that had been ordered. Watching his smooth movements reminded Leyla why so many girls were infatuated with him. Turning her attention back to the girls, Leyla saw Monique straighten up and turn around.

“We’re not finished here yet, Sylvie, so cool your jets or buzz off,” Monique snapped in irritation. “There are other places to order a drink, you know.”

“Alright, ladies, last drink. Who’s next?” Lucien interrupted, handing a drink to Mimi Sampson, Monique’s best friend.

Leyla answered calmly, “It looks like we are, Lucien, if we can ever get up to the bar to order.”

Monique was about to say something else when some other teenagers behind Leyla started asking what was taking so long. She watched with some amusement as Monique blushed in embarrassment and grabbed her drink, turned on her heel without another word, and motioned for Mimi and her other two friends to follow her.

Sylvie nudged Leyla and whispered, “I owe you one, Leyla.”

Leyla suppressed a grin as Sylvie sashayed up to the bar, smiled at Lucien, and cooed, “Actually, we’ve already ordered, Lucien, but we were checking to see how long it was going to be.”

Leyla saw him give Sylvie a friendly grin as he assured her, “I’m sure your orders will be out shortly. Oh, and thanks for getting the chatter boxes out of my ear. They were starting to give me a headache. If you want, I’ll check on your orders, though.”

“No, we’re good, Lucien. Like you said, they’ll probably be out shortly. We’ll catch up with you later!” Leyla interrupted and practically had to drag Sylvie away so that some of the other teenagers could place their orders.

Sighing, Sylvie smiled wistfully as Leyla guided her back to the booth, practically floating as she asked, “Did you see the way he grinned at me? Ooh, I wish he would ask me out.”

“Between you and Denise, it’s no wonder I don’t get any rest! You two are way too boy crazy,” Leyla stated in exasperation.

“Yeah, well we need someone like you to keep us grounded,” Sylvie retorted and then asked curiously, “How come you don’t go out with any of the guys at school? I know there are probably at least ten guys who are interested in you. What gives?”

As they waited for Mick to move so they could slide back into the booth, Leyla shrugged and replied, “Actually, I do date occasionally but they usually end up becoming my friends. Besides, you and Denise have managed to date half the male student population by now! I figured I could just live vicariously through you two!”

The guys at the table overheard her comment and started laughing heartily as Sylvie and Denise both threw napkins at Leyla. The arrival of the waitress bringing their drinks interrupted the good-hearted interactions amongst the friends. Seeing drinks placed before everyone but her and Mick, Leyla looked up and groaned as she realized Mindy Sutherland was serving them. Mindy was forever mixing peoples’ orders up and it was not unusual for customers to have to reorder at the bar.

Realizing it had happened again, Leyla waited for Mindy to leave and then offered, “Hey, I’ll go get our drinks this time, Mick. What did you want?”

“Just get me the same as you, Leyla. Here’s some money,” Mick replied and handed her enough for both of their drinks. Then he slid out of the booth so she could get back out again and she told everyone she’d be back in a few minutes.

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