The Book has been self-published via Amazon and is available as eBook released in June 2012.
About the Book
When a late in the season emergency forces Lalla Bains to accept a greenhorn ag-pilot for her dad's cropdusting business, she sighs in relief. After all, he comes highly recommended, his physical is spotless, and with a name by Dewey Treat, what could possibly go wrong?
Then her quirky relatives arrive from Texas and things go south in a hurry: Dewey Treat drops dead, his tearful widow claims he was murdered, clobbers Sherriff Caleb Stone with his own gun, and makes a run for it. Lalla, convinced the widow is innocent, sets out to prove it—against the express wishes of fiancé Caleb Stone.
Feds, local law, suspicious ag-pilots, nutso relatives, and her daddy's new sidekick, Bruce the goat, make life a living hell for Lalla.
Will her nosey nature solve the crime and save the day?
Or put them all in mortal danger?
Excerpt of the Book -
The world is flat. I know it is, because for the last five hours the view has been exactly the same. Only the sun has done any traveling, working its long shadows through straight lines of harvested cotton. A few crows shop the furrowed rows for worms, weevils and grasshoppers. One hops over to inspect the truck I’m lying under, cocks a beady black eye, probably attracted to the shiny metal police-issued handcuffs, my hand in one of the cuffs, dangling from wrist to arm, and finally down to me, Lalla Bains, aero-ag pilot, sometime busybody, meddling where I shouldn’t—again. I’m dirt smeared and sweaty, thinking if I get out of this alive, if the killer doesn’t return to finish me off, I’ll foreswear all future sleuthing. My dad, Caleb my fiancé, my best friend Roxanne, and half of Stanislaus County will be pleased to bear witness to that promise.
I will, this time. Really, I will.
I waggle my grubby, unpainted and unadorned fingers at the crow. Too bad I didn’t have on my engagement ring, maybe I could get him to peck at the lock mechanism and open it. Yeah, right, and while I’m hallucinating, maybe get him to bring me a nice cold Pepsi.
I never wear the ring when I’m working, and I’d worked today, starting at three a.m. as I usually do during the long hot season of flying cropdusters. I spread chemicals over cotton fields like this one to keep the aforementioned weevils from devouring the plants. Today was my last flight, and probably my last job as an aero-ag pilot, since my dad’s business will soon be absorbed by another, larger outfit in Merced.
The crow is unimpressed with my status—after all I’m the one recumbent under a truck, unable to move. His sharp black eyes take in the cuff and then my hopeful face. Any interest he may have had at my predicament is answered with a fluff of wings, and I swear—a wink. Then he flaps up on to the hood, and his sharp claws rat-tat-tat across the top of the cab. He lands in the empty bed of the truck and a quick, sharp, whistle says he’s found that wadded up McDonald’s bag from yesterday. Yesterday, when I still had a life that didn't include murderous suspects. He fusses at the paper bag for a few more minutes until it’s agreed there’s nothing left but a greasy wrapper. I hear his wings flap again, and wheels up he flies off to the freedom I can only dream about.
I roll onto a shoulder so I can look out from under the truck. North. The truck is facing North where I’ve been hooked up and alone for most of the day, without water, a cell, or hope.
I follow the tracks as they rolled over the berm, cutting twin ruts in the banked up earth, the crazy, jigsaw pattern of my reckless descent. Tops of trucks whiz past. Trucks and cars with drivers intent on dinner, home, family—me too.
Someone could notice. I think. There are those lines leading down through the harvested cotton and finally to me under the truck. That is, if the driver in one of those big semis took his eyes off the road, and turned his head for a quick glance at the flattened, dry and totally unappealing two-hundred acres. I’m sure he would see the truck down here where it wasn’t supposed to be. I sure wouldn’t give it a second glance.
A car slows and rolls to a stop. A door slams. My heart quickens and in the heat of late summer a feathery light shiver of fear runs across my skin. I lie waiting. I hear dirt clods tumble as footsteps make their way through the ruined plants, a curse as one sticks to his pant leg. A pair of brogues—black, with enough shine on them to reflect part of a tan pant leg with a navy blue stripe. His knees pop as he squats down to follow the cuffed wrist to the bumper, and finally down to me, snuggled in between the row of cotton under my dad’s old farm truck. He removes the California Highway Patrol cap, and I notice stripes on his sleeve—a sergeant, maybe someone bright enough to figure out I’m not a criminal.
My blonde hair, which usually counts for a few points with most men, is presently adorned with cotton stems and fluffy balls. The rest of me, is streaked with dirt. Not my best look.
We stare at each other for a minute. I’m parched. My lips are cracked, and my tongue is dry, and it sticks to the roof of my mouth. I need that Pepsi, maybe a rum and Coke, before I can possibly say a word. I swallow, thinking nothing will come out.
But then he does the one thing guaranteed to fix my pipes.
"So," he drawls, "What’s your story, little lady?"
Chapter One: Six weeks earlier:
Summer progressed as it always does: tires go flat, trucks break down, oil lines in the big Lycoming engines split—in which case, I’m on it—not about to let another split oil line trigger a forced landing, not mine or anyone else’s. I still can’t tolerate the smell of tomatoes, too close to the snootful I got a couple of years back when I was forced down into a field of them. That led to a whole lot of trouble I couldn’t have avoided, but tomatoes and I are still not on speaking terms.
We were in our final season as Bains Aero Ag Service and my dad and I agreed that with my upcoming wedding to Caleb Stone, it was finally time to sell the business. Unfortunately, my second pilot's bum knee decreed he wasn't going to make it through this last season. Short-handed and neck deep in work, I was desperate to find a replacement. So naturally I was happy to hear from my dad's best buddy, Burdell Smith, who was calling to tell me he had just the man for the job.
"The guy may only have one season under his belt," Burdell said, "but Dewey’s a hard worker, a self-starter, smart as a whip, and won’t be back-sassing just because a woman's running the show."
"Done," I said. "How fast do you think he can get here?"
With a name like Dewey Treat, I was thinking cowboy, broad shoulders, plaid shirt, and too much facial hair. I would have to talk to him about the facial hair. Chemicals cling to beards, get absorbed into the skin, even with the showers and a scrub brush. Flight suits and helmets can’t keep it all out, and I’d be damned if I was going to have a sick pilot to deal with before the end of this season. I’d have to insist he shave. Okay, he can keep it as long as it’s just a mustache, or that little comma thingy on the chin; that’s doable.
So when I heard a motorcycle rumble into the driveway, I knew our new pilot had arrived. Booted footsteps approached and I stood, expecting the big man to duck under the door, filling the office with too much testosterone and sucking up all the oxygen.
What I got was, a short, thin-shouldered man with the uncertain near-sighted squint of someone who's just had laser eye surgery. Maybe there was some extra swagger in his walk, since he must’ve known I was desperate for the help, but his handshake was firm, dry, and on closer inspection, the gaze was steady, intelligent and sure.
"Ms. Bains," he said, pumping my hand, "I sure appreciate you taking me on this late in the season." He squinted, looking to see how I was taking it so far, and added, "Burdell Smith said to say 'hi' to your dad."
That’s right, bucko, tip the scales why don’t you, since Burdell and my dad were old buddies in a dying industry. "No worries in that department, Dewey. I may run the show, but if Burdell vouched for you, you’re in. That way, if you crash and burn, he has no one to blame but himself."
Dewey’s face blanched and I had to remind myself to back up on the humor. "Just kidding, okay?"
"Oh, sure. You do know Mr. Smith retired soon after I left."
"I heard that too. Have a seat?"
I passed over the medical information and didn’t add that he was leaving one sinking ship for another. Then I explained our percentage numbers, medical insurance, and handed him the W-2 form and a pen.
"Sounds fair enough to me," he said, filling in the W-2 and then sliding it back to me across the dusty surface of my desk.
That finished, we stood and shook hands. "Your e-mail said you can start this week. Got a place to stay?"
"Yes’m. Wife and I found a nice rental in a fairly new subdivision between here and Modesto. I hear house sales are suffering from the recession, so if the job works out, that is, if you like my work, we’ll buy it."
I cringed. Sometime soon, before he heard it from our other pilot, I’d have to tell him he should start looking for next year's job. "Then let’s get you a look see at your aircraft. Burdell said you knew your way around an Ag-Cat, right?"
"Yes’m. Easy, peasy."
"First names only here, boss lady included. So, call me Lalla, okay?" I wasn’t going to ask if he and the missus had kids. I have my own merry-go-around with my dad on that subject.
We stepped outside as Mad-Dog Schwartz rounded the corner and saw us. His ginger brows went up a notch when I introduced Dewey as the new pilot. When the two men shook hands, Mad-Dog nodded at us and turned to leave, but not before I noticed the tweak of smug satisfaction on his face. I think the name, Dewey Treat, got the same reaction from Mad-Dog as it did with me, and for once he was pleased to have gotten it wrong.
We were both wrong on that score.
- "[...] fasten your seat belt, because in "A Dead Red Oleander" you'll be climbing fast, with crazy headwinds aloft. But it's a fun thrill ride you won't soon forget. Highly recommended for readers who love a funny, fast-paced mystery. " - JoAnn (Amazon)
- "[...] I give it five stars and a planet." - Lesley A. Diehl
- "[...] This is a fun read, with a little choas, quirky characters, a little murder, and lots of humour. I recommend it. " - Jinx Schwartz
- "I enjoyed this 3rd book in the series, characters worked well together and I really enjoy this series [...]. Keep it up can't wait for the next installment!" - Sandander (Amazon)
About the Author
She writes about a tall, blond and beautiful ex-model turned crop-duster who, to quote Lalla Bains, says: “I’ve been married so many times they oughta revoke my license.”
She wanted to give readers a peek at the not so-perfect-life of a beautiful blond. Lalla Bains is no Danielle Steele character, she’s not afraid of chipping her manicure. Scratch that, the girl doesn’t have time for a manicure what with herding a bunch of recalcitrant pilots and juggling work orders just to keep her father’s flagging business alive.
Links to the Author and the Book
Link to R. P. Dahlke's website
Connect with R. P. Dahlke via Twitter @rpdahlke
Connect with R. P. Dahlke on Facebook
Link to the Book A Dead Red Oleander with Excerpt on Amazon