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Authors: Gretchen Archer

2 Double Dip

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Praise for the Davis Way Crime Caper Series

DOUBLE DIP

“A smart, snappy writer who hits your funny bone!”

– Janet Evanovich

“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,

USA Today
Bestselling Author of the Liz Talbot Mystery Series

DOUBLE WHAMMY

“If Scout Finch and Carl Hiaasen had a baby, it would be Davis (Way.)
Double Whammy
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,

Author of
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.”


Library Journal

“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)

(
Fall 2014
)

DOUBLE DIP

A Davis Way Crime Caper

Part of the Henery Press Mystery Collection

First Edition

Kindle edition | January 2014

Henery Press

www.henerypress.com

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 © 2013 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.

ISBN-13: 978-1-938383-96-0

Printed in the United States of America

For my mother.

I love her.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Thank you Marilyn Armstrong, Deke Castleman,

Stephany Evans, and Kendel Flaum.

ONE

The Gulf Coast has two seasons: scorching and slot tournament.

It goes from one to the other in a matter of hours.

I grew up two-hundred miles north of here in Pine Apple, Alabama, where I was a police officer for six years and where we had four seasons, the familiar ones. I moved to the Gulf to take a job with an undercover security team at the Bellissimo Resort and Casino, the tallest building in the state of Mississippi, on the beach in Biloxi, and where there are only two temperatures: 120° and 21°. With the Gulf of Mexico right out the back door, it’s easy to keep casino patrons happy during Season One, but to keep them happy and thawed during Season Two, it takes slot-machine tournaments that begin the day the Bellissimo pool is covered and don’t end until it’s filled again. The big sign says, “Pool Closed for Slot Tournament Season! See you in April! Good Luck!”

My name is Davis Way. I’m almost thirty-three years old, almost five-foot-three, and my hair is almost red. I don’t understand abrupt changes in weather, and I don’t understand slot tournaments. I get tennis, golf, and ping-pong tournaments, because skill and strategy are involved. Pushing the button on a slot machine and coming out the champion takes no skill, no strategy, no pings or pongs. It takes one thing—luck.

My immediate supervisor at the Bellissimo is a man named Jeremy Coven. He doesn’t have a hair on his head, not even an eyebrow or eyelash. Being terrible with names, I called him No Hair until I could remember Jeremy. By the time I remembered, it was too late. It was No Hair Jeremy who first aimed those two words at me—slot and tournament—way back in the summer. (Last week.)

We were in our Friday afternoon sit-down with our boss, Richard Sanders, President and CEO of the Bellissimo, in the back of a limo on our way to the airport. Mr. Sanders had an appointment on the other side of the globe and we were accompanying him, but only as far as his Gulfstream 650. The car had pulled to a stop on the tarmac when No Hair casually changed my weekend plans.

“Oh, one more thing.” No Hair looked at me. “Davis.”

I didn’t need one more thing. It had been a long week already. My partner Fantasy and I had pulled quadruples, working from sunup Monday until three seconds earlier at the casino’s Plethora Buffet, of all places, waiting tables, of all things. The tips were pathetic. The head chef (who did no cheffing—he supervised large lumps of frozen stuff being lowered into big silver pans, unevenly top-coated with fake cheese, then cooked to almost burnt) was going through $2,500 a week in snow crab legs, and snow crab legs weren’t on the buffet. We caught him selling the nasty things—I’m shellfish intolerant—out of the back of his Kia Cadenza in the parking lot of the U-Can-Pawn. The guy was running a crab con on the Bellissimo’s dime.

No Hair called it a “classic double dip.”

“Everyone in that whole place double dips, No Hair. Those buffet people will stick their fork in anything.”

“I’m not talking about his table manners, Davis. I’m saying he was getting a paycheck and stealing from us at the same time.”

Right.

Fantasy and I, when we finally caught up with double-dip man, spoke to him about how ill-advised his program was, then passed him to Biloxi Metro, me holding my nose the entire time. The red tape had kept us from attending our regularly scheduled Friday meeting with the boss in his office, and we had one eye on the weekend when No Hair came up with the bright idea that we ride with Mr. Sanders to the airport. Which was fine—I’m always up for a road trip—except for the fact that Fantasy and I smelled like shark bait.

“You two sit over there.” No Hair pointed to the little bitty bench practically in the front seat. Mr. Sanders, a football field away, asked his driver, a man named Crisp, to crank up the air and crack his windows an inch.

Richard Sanders, in addition to signing everyone’s paycheck, was married to the casino owner’s daughter. She’s a handful. He, on the other hand, is a great boss, a nice guy, an honest man, and extra handsome. He was on the cover of
Forbes
magazine a few months earlier. “Gulf Coast’s Golden Boy Gambles It All on Macau.”

Mr. Sanders thanked us for solving the crab caper, then told us he’d see us on Skype next Friday, the Friday after that, and the Friday after that, because he would be on the other side of the world for that many Fridays.

“If negotiations go well, I’ll be back for the big tournament.” He inventoried a leather portfolio full of personal electronic devices between his shoes, then looked up. “You three keep things down to a dull roar while I’m away.”

Of course, we nodded. Will do.

We pulled into the private jet airport and an electric gate slid open. The limo was a foot from the airplane when No Hair piped up with his “one more thing.”

“You’re going to help us kick off slot-tournament season this weekend, Davis.” He passed me a skinny folder. “Fantasy,” he turned to my skinny partner, who’d been my Corrections Officer in prison (long long story), “you’ll be backing her up. Stay close.”

“Wait!” I said. “I can’t work this weekend.”

The trunk of the limo popped open as Mr. Sanders gathered his iThings. He had a leg out the door. “Is there a problem, Davis?”

“No sir.” I showed him my teeth.

“I’ll see you all in a few weeks,” he said. “Hold the fort.”

I let Mr. Sanders get a foot from the limo before I pounced. “No Hair!”

“Don’t start with me, Davis.”

It would take two of me to make up one of No Hair’s legs, so I generally don’t start with him. “I have a moving truck coming tomorrow,” I said. “And I haven’t packed one single thing.”

“Work it out.” He helped himself to Mr. Sanders’ recently vacated seat, rocking the whole limo in the process. “I know it’s last minute, Davis, but it can’t be helped. Something caught my eye, and you need to play in the tournament.”

“What?”

“The slot tournament,” he said. “You’re playing in it.”

“No,” I said. “What caught your eye?”

“A little old lady. There’s a seventy-four-year-old woman registered for every slot tournament from now till summer,” he said, “and her home address is a church in Alabama.”

“Is she a priest?” Fantasy, my wingman, stretched her legs. Which are twice the length of mine. And she’s stunningly pretty. Fantasy has ink-black hair she’d recently cut into a pixie, skin the color a hazelnut caffè latte, and sky blue eyes. “Who lives at a church in Alabama?”

“Exactly.” No Hair stabbed a finger at Fantasy. “I want to know who lives at a church in Alabama.” He turned the finger on me. “I want to know every move she makes.” Stab, stab. “I want to know who she makes eye contact with. How many cats she has. I want to know her shoe size.”

“Why do you want to know her shoe size?”

“You get my drift, Davis.”

I got his drift.

“Step on it, Crisp,” No Hair said. “I’ve got to get home to the missus.” He burrowed in, closed his eyes, and played possum until we were back at the Bellissimo. Crisp slid to a stop behind No Hair’s car in the executive parking lot. “See you Monday, ladies.”

I turned to Fantasy in a panic.

She patted my knee. “You can do this.”

“I don’t even know what a slot tournament is.” My Bellissimo adventures, to date, hadn’t included slot tournaments. I’d scrubbed shower stalls, dealt Texas Hold ‘Em, and decorated wedding cupcakes, but I hadn’t been anywhere near a slot tournament.

“It’s self-explanatory,” she said. “A bunch of people play slot machines at the same time. Winner take all. Here.” She held out a hand for the folder. “Let me see.”

I passed it to her.

She flipped through. “You don’t even have to be there until nine o’clock tomorrow morning.” She held up a DMV portrait of a Senior Citizen. “Looks like you need to find her.”

She was everyone’s grandmother: deep laugh lines, wire-rimmed eyeglasses, embellished cardigan sweater. (Shasta daisies.)

“And then what?” I wondered aloud. “Shoot her?”

“Get her shoe size.” Fantasy passed the folder back to me. “Surely, it won’t take shooting her to find out what size shoes she wears. Go home. Sleep on it. Figure it out in the morning.”

Crisp let us out at our parking lot, the peasant parking lot, four miles away from anything else.

“Come with me to the office so I can find something to wear,” I said. “I don’t want to get here any earlier than I have to.”

“Gladly.” She fanned her face. “I need to change clothes anyway.”

Fantasy is an excellent partner. She’s up for anything, fearless, and doesn’t take crap off anyone. I suppose that’s how you roll after seven years as a prison guard. In addition to her job skills, she always has my back, mediates between me and No Hair, and provides valuable family and relationship counseling, two things I find myself in occasional/constant need of. We make a good team: Davis Way and Fantasy Erb, Bellissimo Super Spies. With names no one catches on the first go-around.

We swiped ourselves in, then split, taking separate and varying routes to our workspace, which is located below the casino and sea level. Fantasy and I operate as far under the radar as possible. We keep a low profile so we can infiltrate various departments within the Bellissimo, and spend just as much time posing as casino patrons, so, we travel the property independently and incognito, heads ducked and hugging the walls. Working in Stealth Mode requires us to have offices that are impossible to get to. Like Hawaii. But once there, worth it. Just like Hawaii. We made our way there. (Our offices, not Hawaii.)

We met up at an unmarked door between Shakes, an ice-cream parlor, and Gamer, a kid casino, in a no-traffic corner of the mezzanine above the main lobby of the hotel. From there, we follow a cold, dark, scary service hall, then use a keypad to enter a door that leads to an elevator hidden on a dark wall. If someone were to stumble into this space, they’d stumble right back out as quickly as possible. If someone were looking for it, they wouldn’t be able to find it with a tour guide, a GPS, and a bluetick coonhound. If someone went to all the trouble of following us, then managed to hack the keypad, they wouldn’t be able to activate the elevator. Admission is facial recognition only, and the elevator recognizes these faces: me, Fantasy, No Hair, Mr. Sanders, and by default, Mrs. Sanders. It’s very high tech, very
Get Smart
, and well off the beaten path.

We saw the blood as soon as the elevator doors parted.

Fantasy went right. I went left.

“Clear.”

“Clear.”

We backed into the elevator dodging a smeared trail of drying blood that led to a puddle in the corner. Roll call. Of the five people who had access to our elevator, we knew we weren’t bleeding. No Hair had just left the property, and Mr. Sanders had just left the hemisphere. That left the wife, Bianca Casimiro Sanders.

I swiped, the doors closed, and down we went.

The elevator doors opened to more blood.

We followed the trail down the hall to our office. Fantasy had her gun drawn and signaled the countdown. On one, we blasted through. At first, we thought the place was on fire. Bianca Casimiro Sanders was stretched out on one of the sofas, and from the haze of smoke that filled the room, she must have been chain smoking her long skinny cigarettes three at a time for an hour. Her face was a ten on a grayscale of eight. Her left foot was wrapped in a bloody towel, and there was blood all over our nice gold sofa.

Fantasy batted through the smoke. “Mrs.
Sanders
! What’s going
on
here?”

Bianca Sanders dropped her lit cigarette in the general direction of the drinking glass she was using for an ashtray, missed, and announced, “I’ve been shot,” before passing out, then tumbling off the sofa onto our nice, clean carpet.

I ran. Locked myself in the bathroom. The trunk full of snow crab legs, sitting the wrong way in the limo, the blood, the smoke, Bianca’s feet, and I was pretty sure I was pregnant.

BOOK: 2 Double Dip
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