The Returns are back!
The Returns, whose human lives were mistakenly cut short, found themselves being returned to Earth in the bodies of some of the funniest dogs in creation! Now, they have a new case to sink their teeth into. Your favorite fun loving, junk food eating, crime fighting canines are once again partnered with FBI Agent Aiden Davenport. Someone is stealing the world’s top show dogs and the boys go undercover to sniff out the criminals.
Enjoy the laughter and adventure as the gang takes you on a thrilling journey from the quaint French Quarter of New Orleans to the exciting crowds of Times Square in New York City.
Showstoppers is the second book in the Returns series. Although it may be read as a stand-alone book, it is recommended to begin with first in the series, The Returns.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
This is the second book in The Returns series. It is a continuation of the fun and laughter that the “returned” dogs and cats enjoy as they try to solve another crime!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
All of my characters are pets that have shared my love and life.
FBI Agent Aiden Davenport paced the waiting area of his assigned gate at LAX. He was holding his boarding pass so tightly in his sweaty hand that his fingers began to cramp. He couldn’t decide if he was crazy or just a glutton for punishment. In a matter of hours, he would be landing at the Louis Armstrong airport in the city of New Orleans. His mind was a jumble of past memories and the anticipation of things to come. He took a few deep breaths trying to calm his nerves.
His last trip to the Crescent City had not been anything he could have anticipated. He had arrived with the idea of capturing the person who had infiltrated his and his late partner’s files concerning the notorious “Tombstone” Larson. The plan had been to slip into the city, locate the house the hacker’s IP address had been traced to, make an arrest, and head back to L.A. As with most well laid plans, it’s nowhere near what actually happened.
Tombstone Larson had been responsible for the murder of his partner and best friend, Agent #7 Bentley “Hound Dog” Clanton. Nothing would have made him happier than to find the old gunrunner holed up in the house where the hacking originated. The death of Bentley had taken a toll on Aiden. The upper brass had removed him from active duty and placed him behind a desk as a glorified paper pusher. The department also sent him to a variety of psychiatrists, and even the FBI’s chaplain to no avail. He was angry, sad, and guilt ridden. Bentley had given his life in order to save him. The Bureau insisted he take a forced vacation to get his head straight and forget Tombstone Larson. He’d never been one to follow all the rules, so he did take his vacation but there was no way he was going to forget Larson.
Aiden had rented a car and driven to the outskirts of the city. Following the directions to the address uncovered by his unofficial investigation, he arrived in front of a white wooden farmhouse. It was a quaint home with blue shutters and a picket fence. There was nothing sinister looking about the place. Actually, it was quite the opposite of his expectations. The house reminded him of something out of the old Andy Griffith show. He could almost smell Aunt Bea’s homemade apple pie cooling on the windowsill. He soon realized how deceiving looks could be, at least as far as the homemade pie.
Suddenly noticing he’d fisted his hands as he reminisced, he frantically attempted to straighten his ticket. The muffled call for boarding came over the loudspeaker. He hoped for a smooth safe flight. Looking at the people lined up to enter the plane he found himself strangely relieved to see a group of nuns standing ahead of him. Surely, Heaven would watch over a bunch of nuns, right? The other passengers all seemed fine, no drunks, or screaming babies. It was an unwritten rule that, as an FBI agent, he would assist if there were any trouble on the flight. He sent up a silent prayer that everyone would behave after takeoff.
He was glad to have a window seat and grateful to be sharing his row with an older couple. I hope they aren’t chit chatters, he thought. Aiden wasn’t in the mood to talk; he was too lost in his memories. He stowed his carry-on bag, grabbed a pillow from the overhead compartment, and stared out at the tarmac. The ground crew was busy loading luggage as the seats quickly filled. After the usual safety instructions, they began to taxi down the runway.
Once they leveled out and the seatbelt sign turned off, he leaned his chair back its full two inches and propped the pillow behind his head. Closing his eyes, he continued to recall his last visit to south Louisiana. If he had known then what was behind the door of that house, he wondered if he would have flown straight back home. Deep inside though, he knew better. The innocent looking house held the answers to all of his questions about Tombstone, Bentley, and his own purpose in life. He had never been a particularly religious man but in hindsight, he felt certain God had led him directly to that door.
He let out an audible sigh as he remembered the first time the farmhouse door opened and he set his eyes on Faith Fullilove. Instead of finding a notorious murderer or Aunt Bea, he had found himself gazing at a slender, blonde haired, breathtaking woman with sapphire colored eyes. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever encountered. Her smile made his heart skip a beat. It had taken him several seconds to collect his thoughts enough to make a cohesive sentence. She welcomed him inside and introduced her four dogs and elderly gray tabby cat. Everything seemed completely normal on the surface, but it didn’t take him long to realize that nothing could be further from the truth. If he’d been thinking clearly, he’d have noticed several red flags. Unfortunately, his keen senses decided to abandon him as soon as his testosterone grabbed the controls.
The gorgeous, angel-faced woman lived alone with her pets. It quickly became apparent that she was the furthest thing from a computer hacker or gunrunner’s moll as a person could get. She offered him a glass of sweet tea, and then invited him to join her and two of the dogs to watch a football playoff game. He glanced down at the Golden Retriever and Basset Hound as they sat transfixed by the action on the television screen. This is where the first red flag should have begun to wave. The dogs actually appeared to be following the actions of the New Orleans Saints. Taking a big gulp of cold, sweet tea, he declined the game and asked to see her computer. He knew it was important to keep his mind on the investigation. As she led him into the hall, he would swear under oath those dogs gave each other a high-five. Still, no flag waved.
Returning to his hotel for the night, he verified the IP address of the hacking. Yes, he had been at the correct house. Something was off kilter, and he prayed it wasn’t him. The next morning he ran a computer search on Faith Fullilove, and a picture of the woman he had met the day before popped up on the screen. There were a few slight changes, but it was definitely the same person. He read the information available on the young beauty and, much to his shock and dismay, he discovered that she was listed as having died in a car accident a couple of years before. OK, so maybe that should have indicated a red flag. He left the comfort of his room, intent on going to confront Miss Fullilove and possibly place her under arrest for wire fraud. First though, he decided to wander around to get his thoughts in order. That’s when he saw the woman in question, along with her four canines, sashaying toward the piers. He pulled his FBI cap lower on his forehead and trailed her. Bile rose in his throat when he observed her meeting with the one and only Tombstone Larson. He could have kicked himself for falling for her innocent girl-next-door act. He turned and raced back to his car in the hotel’s parking garage. Not really remembering the frantic drive back to her home, he arrived just after she entered the house.
He banged on the front door so hard the windows rattled. She opened the door and smiled as she welcomed him inside once again. After he ranted and raved for a few minutes, she took his arm and, for some reason, a peaceful feeling immediately flowed over him. She began to explain that she was a Guardian Angel, and claimed her dogs were actually men who had died before their time, returning to fulfill their destiny in their current forms. As she re-introduced her dogs, she told him who they were in their previous lives. As it turned out, the Golden Retriever, Tucker, was once a Navy SEAL. The feisty little Chihuahua she called Bones had been the world featherweight champion. Her West Highland Terrier, Pierre, had once been a famous haute couture fashion designer and gourmet chef, as well as a graduate of MIT at the age of sixteen. The last dog was the Basset Hound, Bentley. The curious thing about the Basset aside from his name was the large, white number seven, his partner Bentley’s badge number, on his left side. His mind was screaming the coincidence, and yet once again, a red flag failed to rise to the top of the flagpole. It simply couldn’t be possible. He was a decorated FBI Agent who dealt in facts and reality. He was ready to have the whole bunch committed. Or maybe impounded. Then, Bentley went into the kitchen and returned with a Ho-Ho chocolate cake in his mouth. The chocolate snack had been a favorite of him and his late partner. They never went on a job without a box of them. Even as kids, they’d shared a love for the crème-filled treat. The Basset dropped it on Aiden’s lap before sitting up on his rear and staring at him. Looking straight into Bentley’s big brown puppy-dog eyes, he felt a flicker of recognition. Was it possible that his best friend was now in the body of man’s best friend?
Aiden groaned aloud at the recollection. The older gentleman seated next to him tapped his shoulder, bringing him back to the present. “Would you like one of my wife’s fried apricot pies?” Aiden opened his bleary eyes and looked at the crispy pie wrapped in a paper towel. “She makes the best according to our county fair. Take it; you look like you need a pick me up. That’s the second time you’ve sounded in pain. It’s gotta be a woman.”
He shoved the pie into Aiden’s hand. “Umm, thanks. It looks great. You’re right, I could definitely use a pick me up. I was lost in my thoughts.” He took a big bite and smiled. The gooey filling inside the thin, buttery crust was wonderful. He licked his lips and sighed, “Wow, that’s amazing! It sure beats those stale cookies the airline offers. Thank you.” The couple nodded and returned to the books they were reading.
Shifting in his seat to look out the window, Aiden let his mind wander back to Bentley and the rest of The Returns. At the time, he had begun to think he was simply having a nervous breakdown after the trauma of losing his friend. He desperately wanted Bentley back in his life, but to believe the Basset Hound was actually some kind of reincarnation seemed way too far out there. The more Faith spoke, the harder it became to dismiss her. She was definitely communicating with the animals in some manner. She tried to explain to Aiden that it wasn’t really reincarnation; the men returned the same as they were before dying, only in different bodies. Finally, he asked her to perform a kind of angelic miracle. She explained that this was not something she was empowered to do; however the cat, Miss Gitty, might be able to help. During a storm the next morning, as he ran outside to check his car windows, a streak of lightning flashed in the yard, the bolt knocking him to the ground. When he finally woke and became aware of his surroundings, he also became aware that he could actually understand the dogs. They really were talking to him! It seemed crazy, but what had sounded before like normal barks now were perfectly formed words. Miss Gitty told the group she had ‘called in a few favors’ from her heavenly connections. The rest of his visit consisted of tracking the gunrunner, while falling in love with Faith and The Returns. The group was successful in capturing Tombstone Larson, which cheered them all up immensely. Sadly though, after the case concluded, he had headed back to Los Angeles without his new friends.
The clank of the flight attendant rolling the beverage cart down the narrow aisle brought him out of his nostalgia. Aiden debated between a stiff drink and a strong coffee. Deciding he needed to keep a clear head, he opted for the latter, but passed on the micro bag of peanuts. He brought the cup to his lips, took a big gulp, and burned his tongue. Dang, who would have imagined that airline coffee would have actually been hot? He stared back out the small window, wondering what formed the crop circles scattered across Texas. The land below looked so plotted out and organized he found himself wishing life could be that way. He finished the coffee and hoped he didn’t need to pee before landing.
As the seatbelt light began to blink, and the plane made its descent, a swarm of butterflies took flight in his stomach. He was terribly anxious to see his friends, but he had a nagging sense of guilt at involving them in this new case. Of course, Bentley and the dogs would be excited to continue their detective work. It was Faith that had him worried. The old cat had told him that he was responsible for her safety while she was earthbound. Aiden knew he would give his life to protect her without a second thought. It was the deeper feelings he had developed for her that were his greatest concern. There must be rules against falling in love with an angel. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn’t manage to tamp down those feelings. He felt the small box in his jacket pocket and smiled. He hoped she would understand the emotion behind the gift. Of course, those same emotions were the reason he wondered if he was crazy or simply a glutton for punishment.
Aiden thanked the couple once more for the fried pie, grabbed his carry-on, and hustled off the plane. His luggage was already spinning on the turnstile and the SUV he had reserved was actually ready. He practically snatched the keys from the man behind the counter and jogged out, throwing his suitcases in the rear of the vehicle. Quickly tucking the soft green tee shirt back into his worn blue jeans, then checking his short brown hair in the rearview mirror, he raced out of the parking lot. If he managed to get to Faith’s house without a speeding ticket, he’d be batting a thousand!
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