I'm happy to announce that the second book in the Northwoods Barista Mystery Series will be released in August! The new novel follows Jordan and her BFF Samantha as they investigate a missing person's case, leading them into a dark, supposedly haunted forest. Jordy is now a legitimate part-time investigator with the Eagle River PD, but she still can't seem to quit her day job at the Coffee Cravin' Cabin. Chaos and hilarity ensue as the partners hunt down an increasing list of suspects, fight off raccoons, pursue love interests, and try not to get lost in the woods.
I'm grateful to everyone who enjoyed Decaf & Drones, and I hope you're thoroughly caffeinated and prepared to join Jordy and Sam on a ghost hunt in the upcoming Lattes & Loony Lights.
Below is an exclusive excerpt from the new book!
Samantha decided that a terrifying 911 call would be just the thing to ruin my relaxing Sunday afternoon, so we planned to stop by the cop shop first. Unfortunately, she sidetracked us by making me change into nicer jeans that didn’t have a hole in the ass before we could head out.
“Do I really have to dress up?” I whined, as she ordered a switch from the band t-shirt to a simple, high-cut blouse.
“This is hardly dressing up,” Sam sighed, eyeing the artistic mess that was my closet, “but it’s an improvement. Seriously, I could see your lime green undies through those old jeans.”
“Spunky, aren’t they?”
Samantha rolled her eyes.
“You know, my mother always told me your eyes could get stuck like that...”
After a few more moments of friendly insults, we piled into Sam’s truck and eventually arrived at the station.
As we walked in through the back door, Samantha scanning her ID card for access, I wondered aloud when I would receive one of those thingamajigs.
“You could talk to Judy about it. But she’s not working today, of course.”
“Is anyone working today?”
“Well, of course there’s Jim, our phone dispatcher/switch board operator, who we are here to see. And Sarg is usually around off-and-on during the weekends. Unless he’s fishing. After this latest occurrence, he is probably fishing.”
“Hey, we should go fishing!” I suggested.
“I’ve seen you fish, like, twice.”
“Well, that’s because I don’t own a fishing pole.”
“There used to be some at your parent’s cabin, in the second bedroom’s closet, remember?”
“Oh, yeah…” That room was currently cluttered with various boxes of things I hadn’t gotten around to unpacking yet. I’d managed to stuff the boxes into the room, but I was a bit nervous about what would happen if I popped open the door again. I envisioned an avalanche of cardboard boxes, paperwork and winter clothing. A furry boot would certainly smack me in the head. “Anyways, where can we hear this suspicious phone call?”
Samantha led me to the room where the phone dispatcher was. “Hey, Jim, this is Jordy.”
Jim was wearing a headset over his balding brown hair but apparently wasn’t receiving any life-threatening calls at the moment because he was kicking up his feet on the desk and eating what looked to be a bologna and cheese sandwich. His office chair tipped back dangerously under his impressive girth.
“Hey, Jordy, good to meet you!” He swallowed a large chunk of sandwich. He stood up, taking off his headset, and brushed breadcrumbs from his hands before reaching out to shake mine. “You ladies must be here about last night’s call.” He wheeled over to a nearby recording machine that held previous emergency calls. “Let me just cue it up…”
“Were you working last night?” I asked as he was fiddling with the machine.
“Yes, indeedy. I cover the night shifts. Make a local 911 call from 5pm to 5am— I’m your man.”
“That’s helpful. So then you must know what the call was like?”
“Yes, I was the one who reported it to Sergeant Jones and the guys in the patrol cars last night. By which I mean Paul and Johnny. Johnny’s the guy who actually drove all the way up there to the Light, only to find an abandoned car, no body and no witnesses.” He gave a little shiver. “Creepy, eh? We do occasionally get some weird and dangerous situations up here, but for the most part a typical night involves me and my bottle of Fanta, maybe a domestic disturbance or a drunk driver or two…” He looked off into space. “Sure, there are lost pets, bears wondering onto folks’ porches, car-versus-deer accidents…couple times we get a call about a wolf in someone’s backyard or a raccoon throwing garbage around like confetti…One time an eagle picked up a wiener dog in one swoop…” He shrugged and gave a crooked smile at us. “We’re fortunate that we don’t have a lot of trouble up here…mostly animal-related—” Listening in on his headset with half an ear, he must have found what he wanted in the recordings, because he unhooked the connection and cranked up the volume so that the emergency call would fill the room. The first thing we heard was a woman’s panicked, heavy breathing.
“911, what’s your emergency?” Like it was in real life, Jim’s voice on the recording was the picture of calm, cool, and collected.
“Someone’s out there! Someone’s watching--” The woman’s voice was a hushed whisper and difficult to hear. The call kept cutting out, likely due to the poor cell reception up in the forested area near the Paulding Light. “The light is— is changing colors—”
“I’m sorry, ma’am,” Jim’s voice said, “I will need some more information. Are you at a stop light? Has there been a traffic accident? Can you give me your location?”
“Paulding, Michigan— at that light, the Light,” the woman whispered, “Please help me!” There were some shuffling noises and then her voice cut back in, sounding more muffled than before: “—out of the car—” (static) “—got him. I think—” (static) “—think I’m next. Please help me!” This was followed by a crashing sound, a terrified scream, and silence.
Listening to the recording, I felt equal parts confusion and fear. It was obvious from the wavy and panicked tone of the woman’s voice that she was scared out of her wits, but it wasn’t clear why. “Can we hear it again?” I asked; I hoped to gain a better understanding the second time around.
“Sure.” Jim cued it up.
Samantha tapped her toes thoughtfully as we absorbed the frantic 911 call a second time.
“So, what do we know?” I asked as the call finished.
“All I really gleaned from her was the location,” Jim answered. A tiny light flickered on the machine in front of him, and he quickly abandoned our conversation to put on his headset and take an emergency call.
Samantha and I left the room quietly. I peeked into the break room, but there wasn’t a single drop of questionable coffee in the pot. A few people sat at cubicles in the main office space despite the day and hour, but they apparently weren’t coffee drinkers. I sighed dramatically as I joined Sam, who was just grabbing a notepad and pen from the sleek mahogany desk in her office. She widened her eyes when she saw me, observing the woeful dejection that could only accompany a painfully coffee-less Jordan Nimsby.
“Out of magic juice?” One eyebrow twitched upward.
I scuffed my foot on the dull gray linoleum. “When you put it that way, it sounds like I’m on ‘roids.”
A shrug was her only response, but, as we left the building, Sam assured me that we would stop at a gas station for the good stuff. Content, I piled into the passenger seat of Sam’s Crown Victoria, conveniently parked in the back lot of the station, and we resumed our conversation.
“Well,” Samantha began, “we know that she was with somebody else.”
“Yes, I believe so. She said that somebody ‘got him’ and also ‘I’m next’. Don’t you think she was referring to someone else who had gone up there with her?”
“Seems like a definite possibility. I took it to mean someone else in another car. You know how people kind of go up there like it’s a fireworks show some nights? They gather around in cars, bring their beer, and tailgate the Paulding Light…It’s sort of like a Brewer’s game, minus any opponent-bashing.”
Sam chuckled under her breath. “It has been known to happen. Wish I could say that wasn’t the honest truth, but people complain there’s not a lot to do up here.”
“People are weird and need to get out more. There’s all kinds of fishing and hiking up there. And a few sweet waterfalls and lakes right around Paulding. Oh! And there’s snowboarding nearby!” I couldn’t help but interject my wealth of knowledge.
“Yeah, you remember that from the time you busted your wrist after ten seconds on the bunny hill?”
“Hey! I’ll have you know I lasted a solid thirty minutes. And it was a green circle run, not the bunny hill.”
As Sam pulled up to some gas pumps at the edge of town, I scurried in for two tall to-go cups of the dark beany goddess of life’s joys, commonly known to outsiders as “coffee”. It was one of those convenience stores with a plethora of flavors, so I tapped my chin and considered the options. Finally, I selected Vanilla Coconut Peace for both Samantha and myself as it sounded relaxing and, well, peaceful, if a bit hippie-ish. Sam seemed to agree with my evaluation if the serene expression that passed over her eyes was any indication. We pulled out of the driveway cuddling our travel mugs.
It was a warm evening, but it was cooling off, so we rolled down the windows as we cruised down Highway 45 North. I sipped my Vanilla Coconut Peace. It was still a bit warm for hot coffee, but they didn’t have any of those plastic cups and I’d completely forgotten about the ice in the soda dispenser. Ah, well. For me, coffee had the power to transcend time; it was not a seasonal beverage—it was an eternal beverage.
Although I’d hate to admit it, I was grateful for the mid-summer evening sunlight that streamed in the windows and blinded my sight until the road veered northeast. I wasn’t in a big hurry to be attacked by a maniacal serial killer in the middle of the woods near a supposedly haunted location, and I hoped the bright daylight would be a deterrent. I took another sip of coffee and rested my arm on the sill of the window. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to recall the ghost story attached to the place…
“What’s the story behind the light, again?” I asked Sam. “Maybe that will give us some clues…”
“Legend has it that a railroad brakeman was hit by a train one night back when the tracks used to run up there. Apparently, he was trying to prevent a collision between an oncoming train and some cars stopped on the tracks, but he was crushed. Supposedly, his ghost still haunts the place, and people can see his lantern shining up at the top of the hill and then moving towards them down a wide, forested valley. People hang out at the dead end of the road nearby. Reportedly, the light will change colors and come toward the people watching it, but it never gets close enough for anyone to ever really figure out who or what it is.”
“Oh, okay, that does sound familiar now that you mention it. I thought it was like the Headless Horseman, where the ghostie-guy is scrounging around for his head. Is that what the lantern is for?”
Sam cocked an eyebrow at me. “I don’t think so. I think the lantern was what he used to signal the trains back in the day. The legend dates back to, maybe the ‘60’s or earlier, maybe back when mining was a huge deal up here and they needed all the trains. Either way, it’s not real; it’s just a legend, a ghost story, so what does it matter?”
I waved my hands in the air and made Twilight Zone noises. “Are you sure it’s merely a story? Maybe the railroad brakeman’s ghost is the one who attacked this girl!”
Sam was giving me that signature look, the one where she is seriously questioning my sanity, and she even topped it off with some attitude, tossing her silky black braid over her shoulder before finally returning her focus to the road. “We’re private investigators, Jordy. We don’t typically deal in conjecture or legend.”
I snorted. “I’d say it’s about 40% conjecture, 60% facts right up ‘til the end.”
“Okay, okay, but we’re not putting down the ghost as a suspect!”
“Aw,” I moaned, “how about just at the very, very bottom of the list, sort of as a post-script. Like a 'just in case' suspect. You know, ‘just in case’ he’s real.” I waited a bit before I chuckled and admitted, “Okay, I’m pulling your leg, but what if our attacker is some guy who is pretending to be the ghost.”
“Now you’re thinking!” Samantha exclaimed.
“Hey, I’m always thinking. Just not always logically.”
That was an excerpt from Lattes & Loony Lights, which will be available next month. You will also be able to purchase copies directly from me as well. Thanks in advance for your support, and stay tuned for the detailed release date!