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Tracy Hayes is back! With a sneak preview.

As I promised last week, this week’s post is about my writing. Coming up later this month – the date isn’t set yet, but I’m hoping around US Thanksgiving – is the fourth book in my Tracy Hayes detective series, Tracy Hayes, P.I. with the Eye. For those who haven’t met her yet, Tracy is a Brooklyn waitress who, after losing her job, becomes an apprentice to a PI. All sorts of shenanigans follow. Adding to the mix is Tracy’s family, two brothers and a sister, with their problems. If you want to read the previous books in the series, you can do so here, here, and here.

In today’s post, I have the description, the cover, and the first chapter for you – though still unedited. I hope you like them. And stay tuned for the publication date so that you won’t miss Tracy Hayes, P.I. with the Eye.

What do you think of the cover?

Thieves and baby nappers, Tracy is here to catch them.
 
It’s Thanksgiving Eve, but Tracy isn’t happy. She’s back to waitressing, a thief ruins a perfectly good party – lousy beverages notwithstanding – and she fails to apprehend the culprit. As the sole eye-witness, she is needed by the police, but she has a more important case to worry about. Babies have gone missing in her parents’ neighborhood and the police have no clues. And then one is found dead.

Tracy sets her sights on finding the baby-napper while juggling a family Thanksgiving, a jewelry thief, and two gorgeous men. And all this with a shining black eye. Who said being an apprentice P.I. would be easy?

Chapter One

I was trying to keep a tray-full of champagne flutes from gliding to the floor when the thief struck. Not me, or Mrs. Snobby-as-fuck in front of me would’ve got her jewel adorned cleavage doused with champagne. Or the sparkling white wine the glasses in fact contained, about which she’d been complaining to me for the past five minutes.

I was sorely tempted to soak her anyway.

It wasn’t just her complaining that irritated me, or the fact that her dress, which she was too old and portly to wear, cost probably more than I made in a year. It wasn’t even solely that it was the night before Thanksgiving and I should’ve been at my parents’ house helping Mom prepare for it instead of serving pretense champagne and hors d’oeuvres to who’s who in Brooklyn – and probably half of Manhattan as well.

No, it was the misery of being back to waitressing after three months as a private detective. Worse yet, my body had naturally activated the muscles needed to hold the large trays hours on end while wearing high heels. I had been waitress extraordinaire once, and it was as if I’d never stopped. Even my attitude became subdued as befit a person in servile position.

Not exactly my natural state.

The only thing that saved Mrs. I-know-champagne-when-I-taste-it from getting a bubbly white bath was the knowledge that this was only a temporary assignment. I wasn’t back to waitressing for good. I was undercover for a case. And I couldn’t mess this up, or my boss would be very upset.

And when Jackson Dean, my boss at Jackson Dean Investigations, became upset, he got angry. Then he would yell at me, which would upset me. It wasn’t so much the yelling that did it – he was entertaining to watch – but the knowledge that I’d earned his anger. I’d been on a roll this past month and preferred to continue my winning streak. He’d only yelled at me, like, once or maybe twice, if you count the time I slept in and forgot to show up for our morning jog. He’d run two and a half miles from his home in Marine Park to Midwood where I live, in rain, just to vent his aggravation to me.

That’s dedication.

“What is your name, girl,” Mrs. Real-champagne-has-tinier-bubbles demanded in a haughty tone you didn’t often hear outside British period dramas.

“Jessica, ma’am.”

It wasn’t. My name’s Tracy Hayes, but I wasn’t going to tell her that. I was undercover, after all. However, why I gave her the name of my former roommate eluded me. Especially since it wasn’t the name I’d picked for this job. I’d chosen Henrietta Fern, for those curious, a name that had caused Jackson infinite mirth. His undercover name was Dean Jones, which totally lacked imagination in my opinion, but which he’d said was easy to remember in a tight spot. I guess he was right.

Don’t tell him I said that.

Jessica and I had parted in nasty terms about a month ago when she’d moved away with some of my furniture without asking my permission. I’d retaliated by confronting her in front of her date, one Thomas Thane Westley, a tech start-up millionaire and – incidentally – the host of the party tonight.

He hadn’t remembered me when he briefed Jackson and me about the evening, and Jessica was no longer his girlfriend, so I hadn’t had to face her here. But perhaps I’d been subconsciously bracing for the encounter and the name just popped out.

“Well, Jessica, why don’t you scurry into the kitchen and bring me proper champagne,” Mrs. I’m-too-important-to-be-served-inferior-stuff suggested with an arrogant sneer. I widened my professional smile from polite to indulgent, as if it was my privilege to serve her, and said “Right away,” without the least intention of doing so and turned to leave.

That’s when the fire alarm went off.

The entire roomful of people froze when the loud beeping started. The large loft apartment had an open floor plan – only the kitchen at the back and the bedrooms on the mezzanine were closed off – and the sound echoed from the high ceiling and bare redbrick walls, making it impossible to detect where it came from.

“Is that the fire alarm?” the woman demanded affronted, as if it was a personal insult to her.

“I’ll go investigate.” I pushed the tray at her and she instinctively accepted it. Then I dashed off as fast as I could in my high-heels, ignoring her protests.

I located Jackson in the foyer at the foot of the curving metal and glass stairs leading up. I’d forgotten he was wearing a suit tonight, so it took me a moment to spot him, as I kept looking for a man in a black T and jeans. I barely recognized him in his James Bond getup and I startled when my eyes landed on him. He looked good.

Don’t tell him I said that either.

“What’s going on?” I asked, raising my voice to be heard over the noise.

“Fucked if I know. I’ve been keeping an eye on these stairs the whole evening. No one’s gone up, so it can’t be the safe’s alarm.”

The reason we were undercover was to protect the host from being burglarized. There had been a series of break-ins into the finest homes of New York the past month, mostly on Manhattan and always during a party like this one. While the house was filled with people and the hosts busy, the thief snug in, broke into the house safe and left with whatever they’d contained. The police had no clues.

Thomas Thane Westley hadn’t wanted to take chances. “I don’t have valuables in my safe, but I do keep some important papers there.” So he’d hired us to keep an eye on the guests. The police assumed that the thief either impersonated as a guest, or was someone from the upper echelon of society to get an invitation.

Since Mr. Westley didn’t want to ruin his first big party after listing his company by bringing in the cops, he’d selected us. “I doubt I’ll be targeted, since the thief seems to know when there are valuables in the house, but better safe than sorry.”

It seemed he’d been wrong. And that spelled trouble for us if we couldn’t handle the situation.

The irritating beeping continued without anyone seeming to be able to do anything about it. “I think it’s the fire alarm,” I said to Jackson who nodded, sweeping his gaze over the guests who were looking at each other in indecision, wondering if the situation was serious enough to merit evacuation and leaving a perfectly good party.

“But what caused it? And is it genuine?”

“I’ll go check the kitchen,” I said, assuming that if there was a fire, the kitchen was the likeliest source.

I’d barely taken a step towards the other end of the room where the kitchen was, when there was a sort of ‘whoosh’ sound and the sprinklers began to spew cold water on us. It cut off the beeping, so I took it as an improvement. Not so the others.

Screams and curses filled the air, and the guests began to mill towards the front door, their heads pressed down and hands lifted over their heads to protect their fine hairdos, as if it would help against the determination of the finest sprinkler system money could buy to extinguish all fires. In mere moments everyone and everything was drenched and the floor was swimming.

Jackson took instant charge. He was a former cop, so he was trained for it, and he was the kind of person who naturally assumed he was the one you should listen to when things went ape-shit. He rushed to open the door out of the apartment and began to issue orders about orderly exit and telling people not to use the elevator. I don’t think anyone paid any attention. They were in too much of a hurry to get out of the cold water raining on us.

I wanted to flee too. I didn’t have a death wish and a house fire was one of my least favorite ways to die. But I didn’t see or smell any smoke, and since I was wet anyway, I couldn’t get more miserable than I already was. My clothes weren’t expensive and a few drops of water wouldn’t ruin them.

Instead, I retreated on the stairs to get out of the way of the people pushing towards the door. Water was dripping down my face and into my eyes, but I got a good look at how Brooklyn’s finest treated each other in a crisis situation. It was pretty ugly. I wouldn’t trust any of them with my back. There wasn’t a woman so old and feeble that she wouldn’t be pushed out of the way by a strong younger man. I was about to dash over to the woman when she bashed the man with her handbag. She clearly didn’t need any help from me.

The crowd was thinning, but not very fast – the door wasn’t wide enough for such a disorderly exit. But they were consistently pushing to the same direction. All but one man, who was calmly heading to the kitchen.

Now, he could’ve been a man blessed with more than common sense who had realized that the place had to have a second exit through the kitchen that no one else was taking. But there was something in his studied nonchalance that was calculated to keep people from noticing him that instantly put my Spidey senses on alert. Or whatever senses private detectives have.

I considered my course of action for as long as it took me to slip off my high heels. Then I pushed into the exit throng, as heedless of their well-being as they were of each other’s. I’m average height and half the Brooklyn Nets seemed to be among the guests, judging by how they towered over me, but what I lacked in vertical reach, I more than made up with the sharpness of my elbows. They met their targets unerringly, and in no time at all I was through the milling people. The floor clear before me, I took off at full speed – or as fast as I was able to through the water – after the man who had already disappeared into the kitchen.

Behind me, the first shouts erupted: “My necklace!” “My wallet.” And then, the inevitable: “Did that girl take them?” “Stop that girl!”

But I couldn’t pause to tell them they had the wrong person, because I now knew I had the right one. Sliding on the wet hardwood floor, I pushed through the swinging doors into the kitchen, only to see the man exit through the open back door.

***

That was the first chapter of Tracy Hayes, P.I. with the Eye. Tell me what you thought of it in the comments.

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