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 some more slightly off-the-wall adventures set in the rural mountains of western North Carolina?
Well wonder and look no longer!
Below is an excerpt from the first chapter of the second book in the “Finder Team” series. 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
At a quarter past one on the first day of July, wearing only a striped purple swimsuit and a bright green T-shirt, Bim Mayer could wait no longer.
He’d thought about this all winter, ever since his buddy Hanky J had bought this old motel, and most of the spring as well. He’d given up all pretense of getting any work done this Friday afternoon so he could plan his adventure. He’d even skipped lunch—no small feat for a guy with Bim’s appetite—and instead squeezed his 350-pound self into his swim trunks. After an hour of blowing, he finally finished filling the queen-sized inflatable mattress with air from his own now-aching lungs.
He left his outdoor office, feeling a bit light-headed from his exertions, and tossed the plastic blue mattress onto the twenty-foot-round swimming pool just ten feet away.
He glanced over at the empty parking lot and held his breath, listening for any cars approaching. Nothing.
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 on it. Nestea Plunge time.
Bim Mayer closed his eyes, raised his meaty arms, took a deep breath, and then he fell backwards onto the floating mattress.
For a bad second or two, Bim was convinced the mattress was going to shoot out from under him and drop him into the frigid, green-tinged water. But he shifted his big body just right, and he remained afloat.
“Yes,” he muttered with a huge grin, his heels dipping a few inches into the water while the rest of him remained dry. “Mission accomplished.”
He bounced gently with the waves he’d made in the tiny pool, and he relished the sense of weightlessness he felt. It wasn’t a sensation the big man felt very often.
His twenty-dollar WalMart sunglasses were back in his office, but he didn’t want them. Not today, the first day that the temps up in the mountains here in Boone, North Carolina had finally risen above seventy. 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 Hanky J with this all winter. Ever since the weather had turned warm enough to fill the pool without the water freezing on him, though the spring had been cold, and June had been one rainy day after another.
But Bim never forgot about the pool. 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. Now that was quite possibly the oddest couple ever to join forces—even more odd than Bim and Hanky J.
Now one was incarcerated and the other was a fugitive. Dad’s health had continued to head downhill fast in prison, while William was lost, 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 sun hadn’t warmed the water one bit, and as if summoned by Bim’s dark thoughts, the clouds had crept 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 on the matress. 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 at the end of March, right after they discovered his surprisingly successful meth operation up on Mayer Mountain.
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 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 letting out a high-pitched, mosquito-like snore.
He slept soundly 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, his face and arms had slowly started to burn. His sleep had been like that lately—dreamless and deep—and it bothered him. Not enough for him to actually do anything about it, but just a tiny buzz of worry in his brain, growing louder, just like his snores.
The sound of footsteps knocked Bim out of his nap, and nearly sent him rolling overboard off his floating fortress. Fortunately, the air mattress took up half of the tiny pool, and he was lucky enough to grab the rough concrete edge of the pool to survive the choppy waves his sudden waking had caused.
He was hoping to see Hanky J glaring down at him and his summer swimwear, a look of disgust mixed with disbelief on his partner’s bespectacled face. But it wasn’t Hanky J.
“Good morning, Bim,” Shelby Jamiston called out. She’d gotten some highlights added to her shoulder-length auburn hair, Bim noticed. Or maybe it was just the sun lighting her up from behind her. She wore a sleeveless yellow dress with a white sweater thrown over her shoulders. Shelby had really nice arms.
She stayed just out of splashing distance, watching him with a crooked smile under the neon-green Finders sign.
Bim fought the urge to slide gracelessy into the cold, algae-laced water of the pool to hide his rotundness on full display. But his stubborn side got the best of him again, and he splashed his float in a lazy half-circle, Mister non-chalance.
At least I kept my shirt on, he thought with relief as he grinned up at Shelby.
“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 in the few months 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 in Charlotte today, already. 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. “Making the psychic connection with anyone?”
“Hush,” Bim said. He lifted his big head as high off the mattress as he could without losing his balance again. His thick, shoulder-length hair was now dripping wet, and he suspected 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. Maybe it’ll pick up over the next few days for the Fourth of July. Too bad the tourists never get lost…”
“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.”
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 Techknight 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. Bim squinted at her just as the sun emerged from a cloud, igniting her auburn hair again. He wanted to suck in his gut, 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’d always stopped himself at the last minute. He wanted to drop some weight first, for one. And he also wanted to make sure that she was truly interested, and not going out with him because they worked together, or 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 quite a bit of fast food and donuts.
She waited for him to continue, shifting her weight from foot to foot. At some point she’d slipped 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 now have two licensed PIs in the house. Do an end-around and talk with Marly. 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. “I’m sure there’s something worth your time in Marly’s files. Something worthy of your particular skill set,” she added, right before the glass front door closed behind her, and she 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.
She did give me those new, bright yellow flip-flops, after all, he thought. She digs me.
Bim was so busy grinning at that memory and slowly paddling his float in a circle that he didn’t notice a car pull up.
To be continued…