You can only stay lost for so long…
Wondering what happened to Bim and Hank and the rest of the Finder Team after the end of Finders, Inc.?
Looking for the rest of the scene in front of the Finder team’s headquarters? You know the one, with Bim in the pool, chilling on an air mattress instead of solving mysteries?
Well wonder and look no longer!
Below is the rest of the excerpt from chapter 1 from Lost & Finders, the second book in the “Finder Team” series.
In case you missed it, here’s the first half of chapter 1.
The name of the book is Lost & Finders, and it picks up the story a few months after book 1.
More details here.
Lost & Finders
“Whoa!” Juan’s voice—tinged with a south-of-the-border accent—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 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. Juan had lost both legs in Afghanistan thanks to a buried IED, but in his 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 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.”
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 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 crooked 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 some 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-sized: 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. “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 black, and he jumped from the pool into someone else’s mind.
* * * * *
The bus nearly shook itself apart as it came down the mountain pass. She shielded her eyes from the sudden burst of light through her window, and she gripped the back of the seat in front of her. She’d been riding this bus all day, but it wouldn’t be for much longer.
They never paid attention to buses anymore. Trains used to be the best mode of escaping them, but more people rode trains lately. Nobody wanted to ride on a bus in America anymore.
They’d made it down the steep part of the mountain, and the highway had leveled off. She looked outside at the gray mining town flickering past the rocking bus. A gray cinderblock post office. A dingy Speedway gas station with half the pumps covered in plastic bags, cardboard covering two broken windows. A trio of used car and truck dealerships, all adjacent, all on her side of the bus. Then they were through that town and charging past dark gouges in the mountains where they’d drilled and dynamited the road out of cold black rock.
The bus began to shudder down another descent while she checked on her fellow travelers. The older black couple two seats ahead and across the aisle from her hadn’t moved a bit, their gray heads touching as they napped. A white mother and her young boy of maybe five, maybe ten years, gazed out the window three seats behind her.
And the Hispanic-looking woman with the long black hair was still in the very last seat, arms crossed, staring up at the ceiling. She was muscular and severe-looking, like she’d been carved out of the rocks of the mountains around them, but she wore a bemused smile on her face. As if all of this was just a lark, a silly way to pass some time before the next big thing occurred.
She looked up herself to try to see what the severe-looking woman was so enthralled with up there, but she only saw a grimy metal ceiling. She lowered her gaze only to notice that the severe-looking woman was now glaring at her, with eyes like tiny black holes.
She turned away from the woman and sat back, catching her breath, pulse pounding. Her hand went to the wallet filled with cash and credit cards that she’d zipped into her vest pocket. Still there.
Fighting the urge to pull out her phone and check the time, or to calculate the distance to the next mountain town, or to maybe even read or listen to the unending stream of text messages and voicemails that kept right on coming, she closed her eyes and thought about the other small cities and sleepy towns she’d been forced to leave. Fourteen years, almost a dozen places. Never long enough to leave a trail or put down roots. The thought made her feel lonely and tired. Incredibly tired.
When she opened her eyes again, the Hispanic woman was sitting in the seat next to her.