Authors: Gretchen Archer
Tags: #traditional mystery, #chick lit, #british mysteryies, #mystery and suspense, #caper, #women sleuths, #mystery series, #murder mysteries, #female sleuths, #detective novels, #cozy mysteries, #southern mysteries, #english mysteries, #amateur sleuth, #humorous fiction, #humor
Praise for the Davis Way Crime Caper Series
DOUBLE DIP (#2)
“A smart, snappy writer who hits your funny bone!”
– Janet Evanovich
“Archer’s bright and silly humor makes this a pleasure to read. Fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum will absolutely adore Davis Way and her many mishaps.”
RT Book Reviews
“Slot tournament season at the Bellissimo Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Miss., provides the backdrop for Archer’s enjoyable sequel to
...Credible characters and plenty of Gulf Coast local color help make this a winner.”
“Snappy, wise cracking, and fast-paced.”
– Mary Marks,
New York Journal of Books
“Hilarious, action-packed, with a touch of home-sweet-home and a ton of glitz and glam. I’m booking my next vacation at the Bellissimo!”
– Susan M. Boyer,
Bestselling Author of the Liz Talbot Mystery Series
“A roller-coaster of a read. Gretchen Archer has given us enough red herrings to fill the buffet table at the Bellissimo Resort and Casino. The protagonist is smart and sassy with a wise-cracking sense of humor…if you like betting on a winning mystery, then you should be reading
– Cheryl Green,
“Take a gamble and read
! Five stars out of five.”
– Lynn Farris,
National Mystery Review Examiner at Examiner.com
“Davis and her associates, in particular Fantasy and No Hair, are back in this sophomore drama by Ms. Archer that does not disappoint in delivering delightfully charming and amusing adventures from the halls of the Bellissimo.”
– Dru Ann Love,
Dru’s Book Musings
DOUBLE WHAMMY (#1)
“If Scout Finch and Carl Hiaasen had a baby, it would be Davis (Way).
is filled with humor and fresh, endearing characters. It’s that rarest of books: a beautifully written page-turner. It’s a winner!”
– Michael Lee West,
Gone With a Handsomer Man
“Archer navigates a satisfyingly complex plot and injects plenty of humor as she goes. This madcap debut is a winning hand for fans of Janet Evanovich and Deborah Coonts.”
“Fast-paced, snarky action set in a compelling, southern glitz-and-glamour locale. A loveable, hapless heroine Jane Jameson would be proud to know. Utterly un-put-down-able.”
– Molly Harper,
Author of the Award-Winning Nice Girls Series
Books in the Davis Way Crime Caper Series
by Gretchen Archer
DOUBLE WHAMMY (#1)
DOUBLE DIP (#2)
DOUBLE STRIKE (#3)
DOUBLE MINT (#4)
A Davis Way Crime Caper
Part of the Henery Press Mystery Collection
Kindle edition | October 2014
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Henery Press, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.
Copyright © 2014 by Gretchen Archer
Cover art by Fayette Terlouw
Author photograph by Garrett Nudd
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Related subjects include: cozy mysteries, women sleuths, mystery series, whodunit mysteries (whodunnit), southern humor, private investigator mystery series, humorous murder mysteries, book club recommendations, romantic comedy, rom com.
Printed in the United States of America
For Laura, for Katie, and for Sam
River deep, mountain high
Thank you Deke Castelman, Stephany Evans, and Kendel Lynn.
I didn’t get married because the lightning protection system at the Bellissimo Resort and Casino failed. Miserably. It’s there to intercept bolts of lightning trained on the thirty-story building, then safely conduct them to the ground. It didn’t. The call came at three-eighteen, dead of night.
“Davis. Wake up.” The man shaking me was Bradley Cole, who also didn’t get married because of the lightning strike. “It’s Jeremy.”
“Who?” I shot straight up, hair flipping everywhere. “What?”
Bradley Cole and I live in a condo on the seventh floor of the Regent, a fourteen-story premier residence on Beach Boulevard in Biloxi, Mississippi. It’s a short drive, five miles or so, to and from the Bellissimo, where I work as part of an elite security team. Our bedroom is an entire wall of hurricane-proof glass (plus three normal walls) that looks out over the Gulf, and at this hour, the view was usually a black hole or an astronomy show, but tonight it was a blinding fireworks display. Hundreds of cracked white lines snapped in tandem over the ocean.
I turned to Bradley. “Is my mother here?”
“No, Davis! Wake up!
mother is here. Your mother is at the Bellissimo and it’s on
.” He put the phone to my ear. “It’s Jeremy. Talk to him.”
So, that was how Friday, the first Friday in October, the day before my wedding, started. With a bang.
* * *
The storm had blown a safe enough distance out to sea by the time I’d splashed water on my face, thrown on clothes, and found my keys. Bradley in his bathrobe and his mother on his heels in hers walked me to the door. Bradley gave me a hug. “Be careful.” I fit perfectly under his chin. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Bradley.” Anne Cole, my future mother-in-law—super short hair the color of ice, Senior Slammers tennis champ, can whip up a gourmet meal from three butter beans and a hot dog bun—petted his arm. “You don’t need to go. It’s too dangerous.”
What about me? Chopped liver? Having spent a few quickie holidays with her, and now a long—and by long, I mean time had come to a complete standstill—four days with her as our houseguest, it was becoming increasingly clear that Bradley Cole’s mother would prefer he stay single. Or at least not marry
. It was more about the fact that I’d been married before (twice) and that I was from Alabama than anything else. She also had a lot to insinuate about the fact that I didn’t know my way around a kitchen, but did know my way around firearms.
I hit the road. My parents, my grandmother, my sister, and my niece were in a burning building. I could worry about my future mother-in-law later.
Beach Boulevard was five lanes of a First Responder Parade. I snuck into traffic on a squeal and several angry honks, then hitched my Volkswagen to a white Crown Victoria, light bar flashing and siren blaring, with MEMA, Mississippi Emergency Management Association, on the driver door inside a black and gold shield. I trailed him to the expanded Bellissimo parking lot, three blocks from the edge of the property and growing. He jumped a curb, parking his front two wheels on the beach. I jumped the curb and parked all the wheels of my black doodlebug in the sand. I grabbed a jacket, hat, and sunglasses, because for the most part, I work in cloak and dagger. I unlocked the glove compartment and got my car gun, a single-action .22 Magnum. I tucked it at my hip. Just in case.
The rain had stopped and the wind had died down. I ran to the waterline and got a good look at the building from behind. Smoke billowed, flames shot out into the night, and three helicopters dangled red water buckets over the roof. Ash floated like snow. The fire appeared to be contained to one corner of the thirtieth floor. The top. The penthouse. Where my boss, Richard Sanders, and his wife Bianca Casimiro Sanders, live.
Our team of four—me, my boss No Hair (who Bradley calls Jeremy), Fantasy and Baylor—had just gotten new Bose Bluetooth earpieces. I gave mine a tap.
“Where is everyone?”
“I’m in the lobby.” It sounded like Fantasy was in the Superdome. “Baylor’s with me, but don’t even try to come in the front door because you’ll be crushed. The last two floors are being evacuated, and these people are in a hurry.”
“Have you seen my parents?” I plowed through sleeping flowerbeds. “Granny? Meredith? Riley?” I’d booked my parents at one end of a suite, my grandmother at the other end, my sister and my niece in an adjoining guest room.
“No, Davis,” she said, “but I wouldn’t be able to pick my own mother out of this crowd.”
“What about Mr. Sanders and Bianca?” I jogged around the south side of the parking garage on the Gulf side. “Did they get out?” It looked like the ocean was on fire with the elongated reflection of the blaze echoing across the water.
“Your family’s fine, Davis.” No Hair’s big voice boomed in my ear. “They’re across the street. Everyone find a stairwell and get upstairs.”
Upstairs was on fire.
* * *
My name is Davis Way. I just turned thirty-three. I’m not all that tall, but when I wear serious heels I can get on eye-level most of the time. I have remarkable hair, in that people make remarks about it all the time. “I love your hair. It’s the same color as the brick on my patio.” “Did you know that in the olden days, they used to think redheads were witches and chopped off their heads?” “You must be a raging alcoholic with that red hair.”
It isn’t all that red. But it’s closer to red than any other hair color.
I was a police officer for six years in my hometown of Pine Apple, Alabama. After two divorces (from the same man) and more than a year of extreme unemployment (after my own father fired me), I traded Pine Apple for Biloxi and took a job with the Bellissimo.
My three-year employment anniversary is within shouting distance, and in that time, I’d covered most of the nooks and crannies of the three-point-two-million square feet of resort. I know the four sets of common stairwells, all very busy at the moment, and I know one set of uncommon stairs. It’s a single-file service stairway, located behind Rocks, the jewelry store in the main lobby. I took off in that direction, which meant swimming upstream through the thick crowd of hotel guests in their pajamas desperately trying to go the other way. A disturbing percentage of the guests had apparently been sleeping in Bellissimo bath towels. I saw a very large man who’d been sleeping in two very small hand towels. Embarrassing. And not just for him.
I’d made it all of ten feet when I heard the honk. Of a car horn. In the middle of a packed-out hotel lobby stampede. It was coming from the casino. Why would someone be driving a car out of the casino and through this crowd? I tapped my earpiece on. “Anyone near the casino?”
“We’re halfway up the steps,” Baylor panted.
Another long honk followed by two short beep honks.
For three weeks, marketing has had an E-63 AMG four-door gold Mercedes parked in the middle of the casino floor promoting our next over-the-top event: a week long gambling gala called the Strike It Rich Sweepstakes. Please tell me one of the Strike marketing people wasn’t trying to get the gold car out of the building through the hotel lobby in the middle of an evacuation.
Honk, honk, honk. Scream, scream, scream.
I wouldn’t put anything past the Strike people. They’d been crawling all over this place for weeks, including two behavior analysts and a certified aromatherapist, who believed gamblers emptying their wallets and maxing out their credit cards isn’t enough. In addition to going flat broke and living out of a grocery store buggy, our patrons needed a good brainwashing too.
I climbed halfway up a lamppost at the door of Rocks so I could see above the crowd. The lamppost was part of the lobby’s indoor street-scene décor. I flipped the hat I was wearing around so the bill wasn’t in my way, then looked over the rims of my sunglasses. I hung off the lamppost by the crook of my left arm and got a good look at the driver. Not a Strike therapist. Someone’s going to get run over. I should do something.
Four hundred people screamed, “Gun! That woman has a gun!” which gave me some shooting room. Worth noting: When you want people to move faster during an evacuation, wave a gun around.
A headless person sat behind the wheel of the Mercedes. There was nothing above the buttoned collar of a plaid shirt but a tuft of light hair. I made sure I was clear, then took out both tires on the driver side. Now the car was lopsided, and I’d singlehandedly finished evacuating the hotel guests.
I dropped to the floor, smoking gun trained on the car.
“Let’s go.” I tapped the nose of my gun on the driver window. Fifteen seconds later, I tapped again. “Turn off the engine and get out.”
I was hoping, since this guy was driving a car and I was popping off rounds inside an already-panicked public venue, a few Bellissimo Security suits would have shown up by now, but there wasn’t a suit in sight. Those big chickens had probably trampled small children and blind kittens to get out the door when they heard the gunshots.
“Fingers laced, hands on your head, buddy. I’m coming in.” I yanked open the driver door and was hit with a wave of New Car. The man had torn eye holes out of the fabric of his shirt. Baby blues. “Come on.” I waved my gun. His feet came first. New Balance cross-trainers. Then his legs. Jeans. He rose to his full height, a head more than mine, his shirt still over his face. I gave it a jerk and a few buttons flew. I kept my gun on him. He wasn’t a man at all. “Are you old enough to drive?” He didn’t answer. “Do you even shave?” I flipped him around, slammed the top half of him over the hood of the car and held him down with my elbow in the middle of his back. I had nothing, absolutely nothing, to cuff him with. “What are you thinking, hotwiring a car in the middle of an evacuation?”
His voice was muffled because I had his face planted into the hood of the car. “Dude. I was trying to help.”
“Help what? Yourself to a new car? You’re not even old enough to be in the casino.” I dug my elbow in on
By now the lobby was a ghost town, enough so I could hear the drone of a recording over the loudspeaker. It had probably been running on a loop the entire time, but I hadn’t heard it over the crowd. “
For the safety of our guests and staff, please exit the building immediately in an orderly fashion
.” Whoop whoop, fire-drill music. “
For the safety of our guests and staff
“And I didn’t hotwire it,” he muffled. “It’s keyless ignition.”
Finally, a line of Biloxi’s finest thumped around a corner in a hurry. “Hey!” I shouted. “A little help?”
An officer stopped. He bent, palms-to-knees, and tried to catch his breath and take in the scene. The four officers he’d been with kept going. “What’s going on here?”
“Can I have your cuffs?” I asked.
“Can you identify yourself?” The Walkieclip on his shoulder snapped, crackled, and popped with emergency code signals I remembered from my years in blue. Actually, I remembered them from my training. We’d never used codes in Pine Apple, a town of four hundred, except Code Romeo, which meant the town’s only bull, Romeo, had hopped his fence and was in someone’s corn field. Or living room. Tonight I heard Code Red (fire) and Code Green (internal emergency). The officer, still out of breath, squelched it.
“Disease Control.” I twisted so he could see the big ominous letters on the back of my windbreaker, part of my no-questions-asked disguise, which Fantasy and I had used more than once when we wanted a good booth at Panera. “This kid has bola-bola.”
“Never heard of it.”
“Do you want to hear about it right now?”
The kid fake coughed.
The officer threw me a Tuff-Tie, then ran.
I zipped the boy’s wrists together behind his back. “Stand up.” The lady on the speaker was still going with her requests. I tapped my earpiece with a request of my own. “What’s going on?”
“Where are you?” Fantasy asked.
“I’m still in the lobby. Long story. Where are you?”
“We just made it to the penthouse. The fire’s out,” Fantasy said, “and we’re going in. Get up here.”
“Do we know if the Sanders are in there?”
“Are any of the elevators working?”
“The building’s on generator power, Davis. So, no.”
Thirty flights of stairs. With a car thief.
“Come on, Davis. We’re waiting on you.”
“Go on in,” I said, “don’t wait.”
“If they’re here, they’re in the panic room. We can’t go in without your index finger and your half of the code.”
“I don’t know the code.” I looked at my index finger, something I did know.
“Yes, Davis. You do.”
The panic room. It’s on the other side of the closet of Thomas Sanders’s suite of rooms. Thomas, the only child of Richard and Bianca Sanders, is a boarding student at an ivy-covered-walls school in the northeast, and I’d forgotten all about the room built to keep him safe from his mother and/or kidnappers. I’d forgotten the room, and I’d certainly forgotten the code. Richard and Bianca Sanders had the whole code, but it was to get
the room. Not out. There was no getting out once you were in, a safety feature, so their young son couldn’t be bribed out with ice cream. Once in the safe room, you had to be rescued. No Hair had the first four numbers and I had the last four. I’d meant to have it tattooed somewhere discreet when I’d been entrusted with it two years ago, but the son didn’t live here, and the subject hadn’t come up once.