As we count down the weeks (days!) until the launch of Lost & Finders, the 2nd book in my Finder Team series, I wanted to share another chunk of chapter 1 of that book.
Lost & Finders is set to release on June 14, and the ebook version is now available for pre-order from Amazon.
In case you missed last week’s opening excerpt, here’s a link to it. Also, if you want to read the first book, Finders, Inc., you might be able to snag it for free as an ebook in the next few weeks over at Amazon (or heck, just buy for $4.99!).
Let’s go back to our big fella Bim, hanging out on the tiny company pool on the first day of August, when things get a bit… weird:
Lost & Finders, chapter 1 (continued)
“Whoa!” Juan’s voice called from the other side of the parking lot. “Is it Speedo season already, man?”
“Don’t encourage him,” his wife Marly said with a laugh. She wore a sleeveless blue shirt and white jeans, and she had her black hair pulled back into a ponytail. “Next thing you know, Hank’ll be out there too, doing fifty laps a day.”
Bim looked off to his left and saw Juan’s head at the level of Marly’s waist. He wore black T-shirt and a bright-blue baseball cap with a white silhouette of the Tecknight on his rearing horse. They were outside the gate to the pool, Juan in his chair and Marly carrying a bag of Chinese takeout from Taste Grill. The smell of egg rolls and hot-and-sour soup reached Bim across the water, and his belly rumbled.
“Let me know if you two wanna take a dip,” Bim called. “There’s barely room in here for one person, so I’ll have to jump ship. Although I’m not sure I’d want to actually swim in this water, versus floating on top of it.”
“I’ll pass,” Juan said. “I left my flippers and snorkel at home, anyway.”
Bim gave an awkward laugh at that and avoided his friend’s gaze. Juan had lost both legs in Afghanistan thanks to a buried IED, but in his customized wheelchair he could get around twice as fast as Bim ever could on his tree-trunk legs.
“I’ve gotta pass, too,” Marly said, fiddling with her bangs with her free hand. “I’m not quite ready for bikini season. Plus we’ve got takeout if you want to join us for lunch.”
“That doesn’t look like enough…” Bim began, looking at the small plastic bag in Marly’s hand.
Juan lifted the two big bags he’d been holding in his lap so Bim could see and smell them.
“Ohh. You got the family special, didn’t you?” Bim said before he could stop himself. “You guys are cruel.”
“Let your diet go for one day, bro,” Juan said. “A man’s gotta eat.”
“Thanks, but no thanks,” Bim said. He dropped his head back onto his float and let the noon sun ravage his face again. The clouds overhead were now fat and white, moving slowly but surely from east to west, only partially obscuring a sky so blue it was hypnotic.
“Hey, stop by my office when you get a chance,” Juan called. “Got something you might be interested in testing out. Brand new, not even on the market yet, my friend. Plus something else cool you’ll like.”
“Drop by my office first,” Marly ordered Bim, “before you two get all distracted with your gadgetry. I have a new case that just got opened yesterday, and it’s a tricky one. I could use a tip or two.”
Suddenly drowsy from having to use so much willpower about lunch, Bim stuck a pudgy hand in the air and gave them a thumbs-up. He breathed through his mouth until they took their bags of food inside.
Me and Hanky J, Bim thought, closing his eyes against the sun at last. We don’t need no stinking lunch breaks.
He’d just calmed down again after his close call with temptation when he heard the unmistakable four-cylinder whine of Hanky J’s ancient Ford Escort. As soon as the engine died, a door popped open and just as quickly slammed shut.
Bim winced at Hanky J’s quick footsteps, growing louder. Hanky J was the only person Bim knew who could sound impatient just walking. Then the footsteps stopped.
“Unbelievable. In the pool. You’re really doing this, Bim?”
Bim grinned. The hours it had taken him to fill the pool, the risk of bacteria from floating on it, the hundreds of breaths he’d used to inflate the mattress, and even the threat of humiliation with his co-workers had all been worth it to get this reaction from Hanky J.
His eyes were still closed against the sun. The longer it took to explain himself to Hanky J, the angrier his old buddy would get. Some days Bim just couldn’t help himself.
“Think of it as my second office, buddy. Can’t you see I’m working here?”
“And what case are you working on? Scanning the sky for cloaked fighter planes or vapor trails?”
“Don’t joke about that, man.” Bim sat up and rested an elbow on his rubbery float. He opened his eyes and squinted from the harsh sunlight, along with the harsher frown on his partner’s face. “Just ask Juan for his theories about those trails. The skies cloud over exactly three hours after those trails show up in the south. Coincidence? I think not—”
“Okay, okay, okay,” Hanky J interrupted. He started pacing, his tightly wound athlete’s body darting back and forth on the parking lot below the pool platform. He exhaled loudly as he paused for some quick deep-knee bends. The guy never stopped moving.
Bim wondered what it was like to be Hanky J’s size: two hundred pounds lighter and half a foot shorter. Probably felt good.
“Enough already,” Bim said. “You’re making me seasick just watching you.”
Hanky J rolled his shoulders like a boxer, and then put his hands on the rusted rail of the pool fence. He looked like he was going to vault right over it.
“Marly give you any cases yet?”
“Nope,” Bim said, straightening his elbow and flopping onto his back again. He rolled up a sleeve and sighed at the whiteness under there. “Man, I’m gonna have such a farmer’s tan.”
“Weird. I’ve got nothing on my docket, either. I don’t remember things getting this slow before.”
Bim wasn’t ready to talk shop just yet. He wanted to keep Hanky J in a state of annoyance a bit longer, but his partner wasn’t cooperating.
“Hanky J. Just think for a second. This happens every summer. If anyone goes missing, it’s just some randy old fella from Florida who was trying to walk the entire loop of the Boone Fork Trail to impress his new trophy wife. And the cops are responsible for those jokers.”
Hanky J gave a tiny shrug that made his gray sport coat bunch up around his shoulders.
“I guess. Maybe it’s a good thing,” he said, and then he grinned.
Bim didn’t like that. Those grins usually meant trouble for him.
“It’ll give us time to follow up on this,” Hanky J said, pulling something from the pocket of his sport coat. Bim squinted even harder. It looked like a small pen, he thought, and then Hank was tossing it across the pool to him.
“No,” Bim said, not wanting to touch the thing.
But Hanky J had always had impeccable aim, and the object hit Bim smack in the middle of his left palm.
Reflexively, his hand closed on the object: a big, old-fashioned black key.
And as soon as his thick fingers enfolded the key, Bim’s vision went completely dark, and he jumped from the pool into someone else’s mind.
* * * * *