Lost & Finders: an excerpt from chapter 1!

Holy cow. There’s just a little over a month until the 2nd Finder Team novel comes out!

Lost & Finders is set to release on June 14, and I can’t wait to share it with you. The ebook version is now available for pre-order from Amazon.

Here’s a quick summary of the book (from the back cover):

Mid-summer in the mountains. The breeze carries the smell of pines and campfires, and expensive cars with Florida plates clog the roads. The students at nearby Appalachian State are gone for the summer, and Bim Mayer and Hank Johnson get to enjoy a lazy start to August after a rough winter and busy spring.

But they soon realize that summer’s gotten just a bit too lazy. Something is going down in the remote Blue Ridge Mountain town of Boone, North Carolina. People stop by the Finders, Inc. office to tell stories about whispering strangers just outside of Boone, and they aren’t white-haired tourists asking for directions to the antique stores.

Then, during one week in early August, half a dozen people from all walks of life are reported as missing. At the same time, Hank’s shifty brother William shows up again with wild stories about strangers in the darkness. The Finder team suddenly has its hands full with work, with Bim (and his special mental skills) carrying the bulk of the finding on his rounded shoulders.

As summer heats up into a scorching fall and bizarre clues continue to pile up, Bim and Hank might just lose more than a couple pounds and a few nights of sleep. They could lose everything.

And here’s a taste of the book itself, from the start of chapter 1. Enjoy!

Lost & Finders, chapter 1

At a quarter past one on the first day of August, wearing only a striped purple-and-white swimsuit and a bright green T-shirt, Bim Mayer decided that it was time.

He gave up all pretense of getting any work done this afternoon. He’d been plotting this all spring and most of the summer, ever since his buddy Hanky J had bought this old motel and fixed it up as their home office. He even skipped lunch—no small feat for a guy with Bim’s appetite—and instead squeezed his 350-pound self into his swim trunks and filled a queen-sized inflatable mattress with air from his own now-aching lungs.

Bim left his outdoor office, squinting in the bright sunlight and light-headed from his exertions, and tossed the plastic blue mattress onto the tiny swimming pool just ten feet away.

He glanced over at the empty parking lot and listened for any approaching cars. Silence.

He kicked off his bright yellow flip-flops and stuck a toe in the water. Icy.

He pulled the mattress closer to the edge and then turned his back to it. It was time.

Bim Mayer closed his eyes, raised his meaty arms, and fell backwards onto the floating mattress with a flatulent flop.

For a painful few seconds, he was convinced that the mattress was going to shoot out from under him like a huge bar of soap and drop him into the frigid, green-tinged water. But then he shifted his big body just right, and remained afloat.

Yes,” Bim muttered with a huge grin. “Mission accomplished.”

His heels dipping into the cold water while the rest of him remained dry, he bounced gently with the waves he’d made in the tiny pool. Bim relished the sense of weightlessness he felt. It wasn’t a sensation the big man felt very often.

His ten-dollar Walmart sunglasses were back in his office, but he didn’t want them. Not today, the first day that the temps up here in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina, had finally risen above seventy. After such a cold and rainy spring and an overcast and cool summer, he was more than glad to let the sun beat down on his face and nearly blind him. Even the clouds had cleared away after this morning’s bleak grayness.

I might, Bim thought with a devilish grin, even take off my T-shirt and work on my tan.

He’d been promising—some would say threatening—his partner Hank with this all winter. It was essentially just a big fat dare, and Bim never backed down from a dare. Especially a big fat one.

And it had been one of those winters. Probably the worst one he’d ever lived through, considering all that had happened with Dad and Hanky J’s little brother William. Now that was quite possibly the oddest couple ever to join forces. After the events of late March, one had ended up incarcerated, and the other was a fugitive. To Bim’s shock, Dad’s health had actually improved a bit while in prison, as if the old man was too stubborn to die from his cirrhosis, while William remained missing, and nobody wanted to find him.

Bim splashed icy water over the wide curve of his belly and let out a whoop as it soaked through his T-shirt. The midday sun hadn’t warmed the water one bit. As if summoned by Bim’s dark thoughts about family, the clouds started creeping back into the sky like dogs slinking back to their food bowls.

He wished Hanky J would hurry up and arrive. This big fat dare was already getting pretty dang old.

Bim sighed and let his head drop back onto the mattress. Any day now, he knew his diminutive partner was going to ask him to help find his brother William. And Bim was going to say no.

He was done mixing family with work. Dad had nearly shot himself in the face when Bim and his team had tracked the old man down in March, right after they’d discovered his surprisingly successful meth operation up on Mayer Mountain. The retired Chemistry professors he’d recruited under false pretenses had been whipping up some seriously potent drugs up there.

His death would’ve been on my head forever, Bim thought, closing his eyes as the sun slipped free of another cloud to blast his eyes with light. Thanks for that, Dad.

Refusing to let the cold water and cooling air—and his own memories—get the best of him, Bim gathered his determination and closed his eyes. Within ten heartbeats he was asleep. Ten heartbeats more, and he began emitting a high-pitched, mosquito-like snore. Falling asleep had never been a problem for him.

He slept soundly like that for fifteen minutes, and once again, his dreams were non-existent. Just blackness and silence, accompanied by a growing sense of coldness in his fingers and toes. Meanwhile, the exposed skin on his face and arms had started a slow burn.

His sleep had been like that lately—dreamless and deep—and it bothered him. Usually he relived some pretty amazing adventures while he was out for the night, dreaming up a weird amalgamation of all the lives he’d touched over the years, like distorted visits from old friends. Sometimes he was in his own head, but usually he was seeing the world through the other person’s eyes and perspective. He missed those dreams. Not enough for him to actually do anything about it other than start a tiny buzz of worry in his brain, just like his snores.

The sound of footsteps knocked Bim out of his nap, and nearly sent him rolling off his floating fortress. Fortunately, the air mattress took up half of the tiny pool, so he was able to simply reach out and grab a rough concrete edge to ride out the choppy waves he’d created.

He was hoping to see Hanky J glaring down at him in his bathing-suit splendor, a look of disgust mixed with disbelief on his partner’s bespectacled face.

“Good morning, Bim,” a female voice called out. Definitely not Hanky J.

Bim squinted up at his co-worker Shelby. Tall and curvy, maybe five years younger than him, she wore a sleeveless yellow dress with a white sweater thrown over her shoulders. Shelby had really nice arms. She’d gotten some highlights added to her shoulder-length auburn hair, he noticed. Or maybe it was just the sun lighting her up from behind. Her hair was pretty nice, too, Bim decided.

Shelby stayed just out of splashing distance, watching him with a crooked smile from under the neon-green Finders, Inc. sign.

So glad I kept my shirt on, Bim thought with a nearly manic sense of relief.

He fought the urge to slide gracelessly into the algae-laced water of the pool to hide his rotund self. But his stubborn side took over, and he splashed his float in a lazy half-circle, acting all casual.

“G’morning!” he called out. “Welcome to summer in the mountains, at last! Ain’t it beautiful?”

He almost asked her if she wanted to join him, but didn’t dare. He’d stuck his foot into his mouth so often with Shelby since she’d started here that he was surprised he didn’t have toe jam in his teeth.

Fortunately, instead of watching him squirm, Shelby was gazing off at the mountains that surrounded Boone in a ragged, immovable line.

“Sure beats the heat ‘down the mountain,’ as y’all say. It’s supposed to be ninety-nine in Charlotte today. I don’t think I’ll ever go back there again.”

“Good,” Bim responded without thinking. He tried to cover it up with more splashing.

“You on a case?” Shelby said, stepping closer and peeking at Bim’s bear-paw hands as if looking for evidence. “Making the psychic connection with anyone?”

Hush,” Bim said. He lifted his head as high off the mattress as he could without losing his balance again. His thick, shoulder-length hair was dripping wet, and he had a sinking feeling that his mattress had sprung a leak. “Hanky J doesn’t know that you know about my you-know-what. Keep that on the down-low, all right?”

Shelby nodded with a pensive frown. “So you’re not on a case, either, huh?”

“Been pretty slow. Not that I’m complaining. It’s like that in the summer, usually, when all the kids at App State bail on us and the tourists come in to take their place. Such is life in a resort area slash college town. Maybe it’ll pick up in a week or two when the college folks come back for the fall semester. My apartment complex has been a ghost town.”

“Okay, good,” Shelby said, though she didn’t sound convinced. “I just get a bit nervous when things stop being so busy. I’ve been on the wrong end of layoffs and cutbacks too many times. We were so crazy-busy right when I first started here, and then June hit and it’s been dead all summer.”

Bim splashed around and wiggled his submerged toes, trying to get some feeling back into them.

“No worries. You can always use this down time to help Juan unpack his new servers, or learn how to use all those new Tecknight tablets Hanky J finally let us buy. I still haven’t figured out how to get Angry Birds to load on mine.”

Shelby was already inching back toward the office entrance, digging in her big brown purse. Bim squinted at her just as the sun emerged from a cloud, igniting her auburn hair again. He wanted to suck in his belly, but he’d lost that ability long ago.

“Enjoy your pool time,” Shelby said, about to turn her back on him.

“Hey Shelby,” Bim called. Suddenly he didn’t want her to go. He’d thought about asking her out countless times in the past few weeks, but he always stopped himself at the last minute. He needed to drop some weight first, for one. And he also wanted to make sure that she was truly interested, and not just going out with him because they worked together, or worse, out of pity. He’d been trying to clean up his act, but it was a slow, uphill process, with lots of detours and backsliding. Not to mention lots of fast food and donuts.

She waited for him to continue, shifting her weight from foot to foot. At some point she’d pulled her phone out of her purse, and he could tell she was itching to look at it.

“Don’t wait for Hanky J to assign you something, ‘kay?” He cleared his throat and sat up a bit more to meet her gaze. He caught another flicker of her smile. “Sometimes he forgets we have another licensed PI in the house besides just him. Do an end-around and talk with Marly if you need to. She’s the one who truly knows what’s going on in the office. Hanky J won’t mind.”

As soon as he said that Shelby’s smile disappeared altogether, and her face went hard. As in, Are you messing with me, Bim? She didn’t have to say the words, and Bim didn’t have to use any of his special skills to read that look.

“It’s true, for real,” Bim said. “You’ve seen how focused our boss man can get. To the point of distraction. He’ll thank you for taking the initiative.”

Shelby relaxed and gave Bim a smile that made his face heat up even more than his sunburn-in-progress.

“Don’t wait on Hank yourself, Bim,” she said, and then turned toward the office once more, talking over her shoulder. “I’m sure there’s something worth your time in Marly’s files. Something worthy of your particular skill set,” she added.

Then the glass front door closed behind her, and Shelby was gone.

Right,” Bim said, thinking of her auburn hair and the way she looked in that dress. “If only.”

He squinted after her for a good ten seconds, amazed at how she was able to get his considerable gut so twisted up, just by chatting with her. He never had a problem talking with Marly or even Miranda, Hanky J’s on-again, off-again, on-again girlfriend.

But with Shelby Jamiston, Bim had the sense that she was really looking at him when her eyes met his. That she didn’t see the layers of fat covering his frame.

After all, he thought, she did give me those new, bright yellow flip-flops. She digs me.

Bim was so busy grinning at that memory and slowly paddling his float in a circle that he didn’t hear a car pull up.


To be continued next week…

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