The Five Santas
The Oncoming Storm Series Book #1
By- Jay Mims
Genre- Mystery, Detective, Cozy
Dan Landis is a private investigator who makes his living peeping in windows and taking compromising photos to make a quick buck. But, even adultery has an off-season, and to make some quick cash, Dan’s been hired by a department store to work as a loss prevention agent.
Then he finds Santa stuffed behind a dumpster. One Santa leads to another, and before he knows it, Dan’s up to his sugar plums in murder, intrigue and holiday cheer. It’s up to Dan to save Christmas, find the Kringle Killer and choose the perfect gift for the quirky blonde in his life.
Abbey ran hard. Her legs fought the ground for purchase, clawing for traction. She felt her chest constricting, as she struggled to breathe. She could hear her pursuer following, wheezing and shuffling his feet. No matter how hard she ran, he stayed right behind her. And he was catching up. Abbey glanced over her shoulder. His leering grin mocked her. His clothing was blood red. He reached out for her with the black gloved hand that offered only death.
“I’m coming for you Abbey,” Santa said, his voice a rattling echo.
Abbey ran faster, looking around for an escape.
“Abbey,” the voice called. “Abbbbbeeeeyyyyy…”
She felt her legs slowing down, could almost feel Santa’s cold breath on her neck. It felt like she was running through molasses, fighting for each agonizing step. Abbey pulled hard. She smelled something sweet, incredibly aromatic. Was she swimming through sugar?
“Abbey,” a softer voice called.
Dan, she realized, looking around. Dan could help, if she could just find him.
Abbey reached out, trying to find him with her hands. If he was close, maybe he could pull her out. And the smell! The smell was driving her insane.
“Abbey,” Dan called.
Abbey felt warms hands holding her, though she couldn’t see him. It was gray all around her. She felt herself being pulled away. She looked down; Santa was waving his arms, gnashing his teeth in frustration. He hadn’t caught her this time. Abbey searched through the fog, trying to catch sight of Dan. She could feel him close. She opened her eyes. There was no face smiling down. She turned; Dan was in bed with her.
The Cult of Koo Kway
The Oncoming Storm Series Book #2
By- Jay Mims
Genre- Mystery, Detective, Cozy
When Dan Landis wakes up handcuffed and threatened by a colander wielding high-heeled beauty, he knows it’s Tuesday. And when a hapless blonde is in danger of being mugged, his best friend shows up poisoned in his kitchen, and his sister wants him to track down a cowboy named Tex, Dan knows he’s in trouble.
Dan and his faithful sidekick Abbey return for this new mystery, as college professors keep disappearing, students end up poisoned, and someone keeps trying to kill Dan. And all signs point to an obscure film called The Cult of Koo Kway. As the clock ticks, Abbey and Dan must work together to save the day.
Waking up, Dan Landis realized two things: he was handcuffed and his head hurt. He hated headaches. And someone was cooking. It smelled like stir fry. Stir fry and handcuffs meant one person. He opened his eyes, turning his head toward the smell. The plastic wrapped couch squeaked beneath him.
“You’re not Bernie,” he told the woman. She was sitting in a white chair; it looked like something you’d sit in at an outdoor wedding. Or a fancy café. She looked upset. Dan couldn’t blame her. After all, she was his client.
“Who’s Bernie?” she wrung her hands, her perfectly tanned skin turning white. The white contrasted against the hot red of her nails. The color matched her dress.
“A friend,” Dan said, letting the cool plastic resting against his cheek sooth his skin.
“Your boyfriend?” the woman looked over her shoulder. There was a big digital clock hanging over the massive TV. Dan checked the time. It was a bit too early in the morning for stir fry.
“No,” Dan tried to hide the fact that his hands were reaching for his wallet. He kept a handcuff key there, just in case. Except his wallet was gone. He’d left it in the car. Because of course he had. “Bernie’s a girl. She’s not my girlfriend. She’s…it’s complicated.”
“Oh,” the woman exhaled; her voice a cocktail of relief and frustration. Dan squirmed, moving his legs around, trying to gracefully slip off the couch. The carpet felt good against his socked feet. Which made him realize something important.
“Where are my shoes?”
“By the door.”
“Right.” He remembered now. She’d made him take off his shoes. His black socks blended nicely with the maroon carpet. Pushing against the couch with his legs, leaning forward, Dan let momentum get him vertical. He breathed deep, stretching his chest out, and exhaled rolling his head from side to side. The movement made the pounding in his head worse.
“You wouldn’t happen to have a key to these cuffs, would you?” Dan asked, aiming for nonchalant. His hands were tingling, he could feel his temper rising, and his wrists itched. Exploring with one finger, he felt fuzzy soft felt. Fuzzy handcuffs. Bet they’re pink, he thought.
“It’s in the kitchen,” the woman said, refusing to look him in the eyes. Her voice was choked, light glinting off the tracks of tears running down her face. She stared at her feet, still wringing her hands. He noted she was twisting her wedding band. The whole thing was starting to get to him. He sat back down.
“Lena,” Dan said, kicking himself for letting her affect him this way. Stupid. It was always the tears. They were his kryptonite. “You didn’t have to handcuff me.”
“You offered to make me breakfast in bed,” she said, still not looking at him.
“I can take no for an answer. I’m a gentleman.”
That earned him a sly look. Brown eyes stared at him, bloodshot and tear filled. For the briefest second, the ghost of a smile haunted her face.
“I’m a married woman,” she choked.
“Yes you are. A beautiful married woman,” he said. Just my type, he didn’t add. “And if you’ll bring me the key, I’ll just be on my merry way.”
“I’m making breakfast.”
“I can tell. Stir fry?”
“Yes. I have a new non-stick pan, thought I’d make a stir fry.”
“Non-stick you say?”
“In my hand. Not sure how it got there. It’s a bit blurry.”
“Really? Because the last thing I remember, before everything went black, is seeing a pan speeding toward my head.”
She stood. Dan flinched inside. Turning on her heel, she headed for the kitchen. He briefly wondered how she got him from the kitchen to this couch. Lena was stronger than she looked.
“Dinner for two,” she said, to whom was unclear. He couldn’t believe it was for him. It was time to leave. Lena disappeared around the corner, and began rattling drawers in the kitchen. Hopefully she was looking for the handcuff key. Except you wouldn’t keep the key in the kitchen. Dan was very good at telling when people were lying. She’s going for a knife isn’t she, he thought.
Yep, the little voice inside his head said.
So I should be going, he realized. Probably. No sense hanging around, waiting for the attractive brunette in the red dress to come back wielding a knife. And heels, he added to himself, hearing the tell tale click as Lena walked back and forth in the kitchen. Probably matching red heels. Though, he did briefly wonder why he had to take off his shoes when she was allowed to roam around in heels.
Actually, between the heels and the cuffs, Dan was starting to gain a new appreciation for Lena.
You’re weird, his little voice said with a smile.
He assessed his options for escape. There was the front door. But that led past the kitchen, and probably would lead to awkward questions. Since this was a third floor apartment, a back door was probably out of the question. A breeze tickled his neck, and he looked over his shoulder. The window was open, white curtains billowing. There was the silhouette of a fire escape. It had been a long time since he’d gone out the window. That had involved an angry wife too.
The Gray Ghost Inn
The Oncoming Storm Series Book #3
By- Jay Mims
Genre- Mystery, Detective, Cozy
Dan Landis had a simple plan. Drive to a quaint bed and breakfast, spend New Year’s with his best friend Doc, and enjoy a much-needed vacation. Except, he didn’t account for everyone’s favorite klutzy genius Abbey.
Now there’s a body in the library, snow all around, and a mansion full of suspects. Dan must call on his best detective skills, and his worst Hercule Poirot impersonation, to solve this latest mystery. However, the awful truth looms overhead everyone, whatever the answer, nothing will ever be the same.
Dan checked his teeth for spinach, but found no offending greens. Only the gleam of pearly whites. He killed the engine and turned to Abbey. Abbey was wearing a white blouse, black knee length skirt, and his sister’s full length black jacket. They were roughly the same body size, and Jules had clothes to spare. She looked respectable enough, if a bit Bible-saleswomanish.
“Why don’t you just stay in the car?” Dan offered. “I won’t be long, and it’s pouring down out there.”
“This?” she raised a skeptical eyebrow, looking through the front windshield. “This is nothing. It’s just snow that can’t commit.”
That earned a laugh. He debated locking her in the car, and then realized no matter what happened, he was going to turn around and have her right over his shoulder. The Abbinator moved like a silent Ninja. A silent Cat Ninja.
“Alright,” he said. “Let’s lay down some ground rules.” He held up a finger, “One, Tex is a very bad man. When I say bad, I don’t mean he’s facing off against the Sharks while snapping his fingers.” Abbey snorted, and Dan made a mental note to reference West Side Story in the near future. “I mean he’s an armed robber, killed at least three people that I know of, and beats men to a pulp for the fun of it. He would not hesitate to gun both of us down.”
She paused, giving him a long appraising look. There was no fear in her eyes, but there was a trace of sadness. “I don’t want something to happen to you.”
Dan took a breath, his heart suddenly feeling lighter. “Well, I don’t want anything bad to happen to you either, Abs. But, I’m not really worried about him hurting you. I tried really hard to keep any focus and rage Tex might have had on yours truly.” And, he didn’t add, Tex was one felony conviction away from doing life in prison. “So, rule number one, don’t go running your mouth off about Tex. Don’t claim you know him, don’t tell people you brought him in, and please, please PLEASE don’t post ‘Bagged infamous criminal Tex’ on your blog.”
“Like I’d really do that,” Abbey said, a half-smile on her face.
“Whatever Miss ‘I just ran down a man in a banana suit’.”
“I didn’t think you read my blog.”
“I read it,” he admitted. “I just don’t understand half of it. Especially when you start talking about Dada and Cubism and such.”
“Alright, I promise,” she crossed her heart, “No more Cubism talk and I won’t post about bagging Tex…on my blog.”
“And not to your study group either,” he added.
“Party pooper,” she said with a feigned pout. It melted into that genuine smile of hers. He looked toward the apartment.
“Rule two,” he held up a second finger. “Mrs. Hasselberg thinks her son is an insurance salesman. We are not here to shatter that illusion.” Dan tied up the grocery bag, making it waterproof.
“Can I pretend to be an insurance saleswoman?” Abbey asked brightly, leaning forward. Her green eyes sparkled. “Maybe I could call myself Bunny Hayes, Insurance Saleswoman!”
He just knew that, somewhere in that oversized brain of hers, she was already generating a long and complicated backstory. Bunny Hayes already had a complete biography by now. There was probably a great tragedy that she’d overcome, possibly a heartbreak or two, maybe a secret talent that she was nurturing while becoming a corporate shill on the outside.
“No,” he said firmly, “You are not to introduce yourself as Bunny Hayes to this woman. If she asks, we’re friends from Temple.”
“I’m not Jewish,” she said.
“Well,” he replied, “No one’s perfect.” He began unzipping his flannel coat, ready to put it over his head. He really hated getting rained on. That and spiders. A thought flickered across his brain, “Oh, Rule three. Don’t ask about Mr. Whiskers.”
“Who is Mr. Whiskers?” she asked.
“What did I just say?” he sighed and rolled his eyes. He pointed one finger. “Don’t ask.”
She shoved his finger aside, “Well I’m not asking Mrs. Hasselberg now am I?” He melted under the gaze of those emerald eyes. “I’m asking you…Who is Mr. Whiskers. It sounds like a cat.” Abbey adjusted her jacket, readying herself for the snow with commitment issues. Dan was disappointed, as he’d kind of been looking forward to seeing her in a wet white shirt. “Is he a cat?”
“He was a cat. He’s every cat. We’re up to Mr. Whiskers the Sixteenth,” he admitted, not bothering to suppress a shudder. He took a breath, opened his door, and made a run for it. He shut the car door with a practiced silence. Stealth was an acquired skill. Behind him, Abbey slammed his car door like she had a grudge against it.
He aimed for apartment 4125, the absence of footsteps letting him know Abbey was right behind him. Ahead, the smell of Beef Wellington drifted through the drizzle. He followed his nose.
Mrs. Hasselberg had reached the point in her life where she didn’t have to cook for anyone else, and therefore could have Beef Wellington anytime she wanted. Dan hated Beef Wellington. Gentle strings of big band music played as Dan rapped his knuckles against the correct door.
The smell of kiwi-lime shampoo mixed with a touch of strawberries, told him that Abbey was standing just behind his left shoulder. Dan looked over. Disappointingly the jacket was expertly positioned, and not a single drop had hit Abbey’s white shirt. He sighed and rang the doorbell. An old lady, wearing thick glasses that gave her the expression of a surprised owl, opened the door. Her solid white hair frizzled in all directions, and her skin looked three sizes too big for her. A foul-smelling cigar was in her hand, and she puffed smoke into Dan’s face. He fought back a cough.
“Hello Shamus,” she said, “What’s my no-good rat bastard of a number one suspect done this time?”
“Good evening Mrs. Hasselberg,” Dan said with a forced smile. He hated smoke in his face. It was something Maggie always used to drive him crazy. “I come bearing gifts,” he held up the grocery bag.
“Is that Lawrence Welk?” Abbey asked cheerfully.
“Who’s the Twinkie?” Mrs. Hasselberg said flatly, her eyes never leaving Dan, returning the cigar to her mouth.
Before he could introduce her, Abbey stuck out a hand and said, “Bunny Babcock.”
Every single time, he thought. His little voice laughed. He had to concede she had NOT introduced herself as Bunny Hayes. And bonus points for alliteration.
I like her, his little voice said, she’s got moxy.
Racing the Storm
The Oncoming Storm Series Book #4
By- Jay Mims
Genre- Mystery, Adventure, Detective, Cozy
The storm is here. Dan Landis, private investigator, has been hired by his defense attorney sister to do the impossible. In order to create a miracle, Dan must call on his friends and family, endangering them and putting a target on his own back.
Dan is on the run, his home is in flames, and the bad guys have murder on their minds. The skies reddened in The Five Santas, the clouds began to darken in Cult of Koo Kway, and the thunder rumbled in The Gray Ghost Inn. At last, the storm is here. And everything is about to change.
The Earth spins at roughly 1,675 kilometers per hour, or 465 meters per second. Dan Landis could feel it. It wasn’t fast enough. He picked up the two fresh magazines, feeling their thirty-six individual gifts combined into one enormous power. He suddenly had the ability to grant life or death. Again. He didn’t have to break his promise, because the person who made him promise, to SWEAR, to only carry blanks had given him the bullets. Now he knew what Barney Fife felt like.
He slipped the magazines into his jacket pocket and turned to the mental ghost of his long-time partner. She had lost some of her cheer; there was no longer a playful smile on her face. She was also the reason Dan promised Gary to never carry real bullets again.
“Come on Danny-Boy,” Maggie said, tilting her head toward the upstairs office they had once shared. She was using her calm, even, professional tone. She called it her ‘client voice’. “You’ve got trouble waiting on you.”
“Yep. You know, maybe you’re right. Maybe I should just get out of here. Like, I don’t know, just leave. Just run.”
Maggie stared at him and then stepped forward, her warm and calloused hands touching his cheek. It was a bit disturbing that he could feel the gentle weight of her palm, hear the heartbeat through her fingertips. It was more disturbing how much Dan missed having a woman touch him like that.
“There are two kinds of running, Danny-Boy. The kind where someone’s chasing you, where you’re running for your life. When you do that, no matter how hard you run, that person is going to always be behind you, catching up. Then there’s the kind where you do the chasing.” Maggie pinched his ear. Dan let out a yelp of pain. “Daniel Gertrude Landis, I think it’s time you stopped running away and started doing the chasing. Now get in there!”
She released him toward the apartment. Dan took a step back, rubbed his sore earlobe, glaring at her. She crossed her arms and returned the glare. She raised her eyebrows. He took a deep breath, let it out slowly, and nodded at her. Hands shaking, he folded up the envelope, shoving it into his other jacket pocket. He pulled out his keys, walked up the stairs to his second floor apartment, and closed his eyes. He took a breath. Then he unlocked the door, held it open chivalrously for Maggie, and locked it behind him.
“Well,” his sister’s voice called out, “are you ready or not?”
He sighed, releasing the door knob. “Honey, I’m home.”
“Gertie.” Julianne Jones née Landis stepped around the corner. She was wearing a severely cut black dress suit, her raven hair pulled back it into a tight bun. She was two inches shorter then Dan, her eyes were pale to the point of being translucent, and she was four years older than he was. Otherwise the two of them could have been twins.
“Jules,” Dan said evenly to the most feared defense attorney in town. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”
“How’s Gary?” Julianne Jones, attorney at law asked. She wandered over to the window. Her eyes swept the garden.
“He call?” The question came rushing out, Dan’s curiosity getting the better of him.
“Gunpowder smell?” Julianne raised one eyebrow, her movements twitchy, like a paranoid cat. She jerked the sheer window shades back, glaring into the back garden. “Where are they?”
“I told them a quarter till nine.” His eyes drifted to the cabinet beneath his sink. She walked past it and he breathed a sigh of relief. A cursory glance around the room told him nothing had been disturbed; all the little tells were still in place. That was a relief. “Anyone been in here?”
“Not since you left, no.” She stopped. “Why on earth am I babysitting your apartment? I know I wasn’t followed, I doubt you were followed. What exactly are you expecting?”
“Puerto Rican hit men, local subcontractors, ninety-nine red balloons.”
He took a step forward, looking over the small space had been home to him since Maggie died. The foldaway camp bed, second hand TV, mini-fridge, microwave, perpetually full sink. It wasn’t much, but it was his. He stepped through the beaded partition, into the much bigger space that made up his office. He could hear Jules following one step behind him. The shelves were filled with brick-a-brack, a thousand memories, and little reminders from cases. From adventures. Good times.
“I’m not taking any chances,” Dan said. “I’d say we’re in trouble, but I think we’re a bit past trouble at this point. So, are you all packed?”
Julianne crossed her arms. “I’m not leaving.”
Dan took a deep breath, meeting his sister’s steely gaze. They’d had this argument before. “The whole point of the Seven Potters is to get you out of here.” Abbey had come up with the name. It made Dan laugh. She had that effect on him.
“Who’s Potter? And why are there seven of them?” Julianne asked, her eyes wide. Her voice rose in alarm.
“Just a nickname. Better then Operation: Worst Plan Ever,” he smiled. It faded fast. “You need to start reading something other than law books. This was part of the plan, Jules.”
“Plans change, Gertie.” She used his childhood nickname, the one she always used when she wanted to boss her little brother around.
“This should be interesting,” Maggie chimed in.
Dan shot a glance at his imaginary friend, then turned back to his stubborn sister. “At what point did we start deviating from the plan? And when did you go from clever mastermind to making stuff up as you go along? Isn’t that sort of my job?”
“My leaving was never part of the plan.” Julianne checked her watch. “We are still going ahead with everything. You were the one who wanted me to leave. You set up this idiotic Kansas City shuffle. You organized this charade. I’m only playing along because it makes you feel useful.”
“Don’t do it,” Maggie warned.
Dan’s eye twitched. With great effort he bit back his reply, instead thinking, What? Don’t do what?
“If you knock your sister out and carry her away with you, she’ll never forgive you,” Maggie said, her eyes sparkling.
“You’re such a drama queen,” Julianne huffed. She turned her back on him. Dan glanced around for Jimminy, his faithful cricket bat. He shook his head, reminding himself violence wasn’t the answer. At least not right now. She stopped, looking at the shelf nearest the bathroom. “Where’s Roger?”
“Roger?” Dan asked, casual.
“Roger the Bear?” Julianne’s head whipped around so fast, Dan could hear her neck pop from across the room. Her perfectly coifed eyebrows raised in suspicion. She was not buying his casual attitude for a minute. “The stupid blue bear, the one Bernie bought you. The one that’s been a fixture of this dump for…you’re taking the bear with you, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” Dan lied. “I don’t like being in a strange place without my guardian bear watching over me.” With any luck, Roger had found a new home.
And somewhere, a small child would have a new toy. There was the sound of keys working the lock downstairs. Dan breathed a sigh of relief. “Right on time.”
“Bernie’s half an hour late,” Julianne said with a roll of her eyes.
“Like I said, right on time.” Dan’s smile never reached his eyes.
“I heard that,” a voice called out. It was heavy with a British accent, pure North, with a trace of annoyance and more than the daily recommended dose of mischief. “Do you know how annoying it is trying to check for tails? I spent half an hour making the loop. Then I got behind some wank on the phone, bloody fool had his indicator on the whole time.” Feet pounded up the stairwell. Two figures entered the room. Dan’s heart skipped a beat.
Bernadette Wilkins, M.D. was wearing his favorite bomber jacket, the brown leather one, with matching fedora. It was a size too big for her, though she made it look scandalously sexy. She also wore acid washed blue jeans, a hot pink top and matching sunglasses. But Dan only had eyes for Abbey.
She was eating a giant cinnamon roll, clearly having to juggle between the roll and the oversized cup of coffee. She was wearing a curly blond wig, poodle skirt, and black biker jacket. Bernice Agnes “Abbey” Smith; ask her to wear a disguise and this is what you got.
“Bernie, Sandra Dee,” Dan said, nodding at each of them in turn.
About the Author-
Jay Mims, better known as Mimsey, lives two miles past nowhere with The Mimsus. He also accidentally adopted his neighbor’s cat, Eartha Kitty, has a lizard named Bob hiding in his house, and has a passive-aggressive Dalek roommate named Steve. When not writing cozy mysteries, Jay teaches and is learning knitting. Jay is currently working on knitting a cape. Capes are cool.