Tara Holloway has got your number. A special agent on the IRS's payroll, she's dead-set on making sure that money crimes don't pay...
Tax cheats, beware: The Treasury Department's Criminal Investigations Division has a new special agent on its payroll. A recovering tomboy with a head for numbers, Tara's fast becoming the Annie Oakley of the IRS--kicking ass, taking social security numbers, and keeping the world safe for honest taxpayers. Or else.
Tara's latest mission finds her in hot pursuit of ice-cream vendor Joseph "Joe Cool" Cullen. Along with frozen treats he's selling narcotics--and failing to report his ill-gotten gains on his tax returns. Over Tara's dead body. Then there's Michael Gryder, who appears to be operating a Ponzi scheme...with banker Stan Shelton...whose lake house is being landscaped by Brett Ellington...who happens to be dating Tara. If following that money trail isn't tough enough, now Tara must face a new conundrum: Should she invest her trust in Brett--or put him behind bars? New love always comes at a cost but justice? Priceless.
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St. Martin's Paperbacks
November 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure by Diane Kelly
Death, Taxes and a French Manicure
Some People Just Need Shooting
When I was nine, I formed a Silly Putty pecker for my Ken doll, knowing he'd have no chance of fulfilling Barbie's needs given the permanent state of erectile dysfunction with which the toy designers at Mattel had cursed him. I knew a little more about sex than most girls, what with growing up in the country and all. The first time I saw our neighbor's Black Angus bull mount an unsuspecting heifer, my two older brothers explained it all to me.
"He's getting him some," they'd said.
"Some what?" I'd asked.
We watched through the barbed-wire fence until the strange ordeal was over. Frankly, the process looked somewhat uncomfortable for the cow, who continued to chew her cud throughout the entire encounter. But when the bull dismounted, nuzzled her chin, and wandered away, I sworeI saw a smile on that cow's face and a look of quiet contentment in her eyes. She was in love.
I'd been in search of that same feeling for myself ever since.
My partner and I had spent the afternoon huddled at a cluttered desk in the back office of an auto parts store perusing the owner's financial records, searching for evidence of tax fraud. Yeah, you got me. I work for the IRS. Not exactly the kind of career that makes a person popular at cocktail parties. But those brave enough to get to know me learn I'm actually a nice person, fun even, and they have nothing to fear. I have better things to do than nickel-and-dime taxpayers whose worst crime was inflating the value of the Glen Campbell albums they donated to Goodwill.
"I'll be right back, Tara." My partner smoothed the front of his starched white button-down as he stood from the folding chair. Eddie Bardin was tall, lean, and African-American, but having been raised in the upper-middle-class , predominately white Dallas suburbs, he had a hard time connecting to his roots. He'd had nothing to overcome, unless you counted his affinity for Phil Collins's music, Heineken beer, and khaki chinos, tastes that he had yet to conquer. Eddie was more L.L. Bean than LL Cool J.
I nodded to Eddie and tucked an errant strand of my chestnut hair behind my ear. Turning back to the spreadsheet in front of me, I flicked aside the greasy burger and onion ring wrappers the store's owner, Jack Battaglia, had left on the desk after lunch. I couldn't make heads or tails out of the numbers on the page. Battaglia didn't know jack about keeping books and, judging from his puny salaries account, he'd been too cheap to hire a professional.
A few seconds after Eddie left the room, the door to the office banged open. Battaglia loomed in the doorway, his husky body filling the narrow space. He wore a look of purpose and his store's trademark bright green jumpsuit, the cheerful color at odds with the open box cutter clutched in his furry-knuckled fist.
"Hey!" Instinctively, I leaped from my seat, the metal chair falling over behind me and clanging to the floor.
Battaglia lunged at me. My heart whirled in my chest. There was no time to pull my gun. The best I could do was throw out my right arm to deflect his attempt to plunge the blade into my jugular. The sharp blade slid across my forearm, just above my wrist, but with so much adrenaline rocketing through my system, I felt no immediate pain. If not for the blood seeping through the sleeve of my navy nylon raid jacket, I wouldn't have even known I'd been cut. Underneath was my favorite pink silk blouse, a coup of a find on the clearance rack at Neiman Marcus Last Call, now sliced open, the blood-soaked material gaping to reveal a short but deep gash.
My jaw clamped tighter than a chastity belt on a pubescent princess. This jerk was going down.
My block had knocked him to the side. Taking advantage of our relative positioning, I threw a roundhouse kick to Battaglia's stomach, my steel-toed cherry-red Dr. Martens sinking into his soft paunch. The shoes were the perfect combination of utility and style, another great find at a two-for-one sale at the Galleria.
The kick didn't take the beer-bellied bastard out of commission, but at least it sent him backward a few feet, putting a little more distance between us. A look of surprise flashed across Battaglia's face as he stumbled backward. He clearly hadn't expected a skinny, five-foot-two-inch bookish woman to put up such a fierce fight.
He regained his footing just as I yanked my Glock from my hip holster. I pointed the gun at his face, a couple drops of blood running down my arm and dropping to the scuffed gray tile floor. "Put the box cutter down."
He stiffened, his face turning purple with fury. "Shit. IRS agents carry guns now?"
Although people were familiar with tax auditors, the concept of a special agent--a tax cop--eluded most. But we'd been busting tax cheats for decades. Heck, when no other law enforcement agency could get a charge to stick, we were the ones to finally bring down Al Capone. And if we could nab a tough guy like Capone, this pudgy twerp didn't stand a chance.
By our best estimate, Battaglia had cheated the federal government and honest Americans out of at least eighty grand and didn't seem too happy when Eddie and I'd shown up to collect. Now, with my partner on a potty break, Battaglia was treating me like I was a shrimp and he was a chef at Benihana.
The madman sneered at me, revealing teeth yellowed by age and excessive soda consumption. He waved the blade in the air. "If you shoot me, you better shoot to kill. 'Cause if you don't, I'm gonna carve you like a pumpkin."
My gunmetal-gray-blue eyes bored into Battaglia's. "Daddy had a strict rule about firearms. Anything we killed we had to eat. No amount of barbecue sauce would make a hairy guy like you palatable."
He raised the box cutter higher. Now that just burned me up. He didn't think I'd do it. He was wrong. Still, I'd only shoot as a last resort. Not because I was some kind of bleeding heart. There was just too much paperwork involved. Besides, gunplay was hell on a manicure and I'd just had my fingers freshly French-tipped yesterday.
Since threats hadn't worked, I decided to try persuasion."Look. If I shoot you, I'll have to fill out a form. I hate filling out forms."
He snorted and rolled his eyes. "You hate filling out forms and you took a job with the IRS? What are you, some kind of idiot?"
So much for my powers of persuasion. Now I was beyond burned up. Now I was hot and bothered. "Drop the box cutter, you sorry son of a bitch."
There I went again, exposing my country roots. Growing up in the rural east Texas town of Nacogdoches, I was taught how to curse a blue streak by my brothers. But now I was a sophisticated city girl living in Dallas, a member of the Junior League, and I needed to act like it. Problem was, this jerk was making it hard to remember my manners.
Battaglia lunged again, a green blubbery blur coming right at me. I ducked aside just in time to avoid being slashed again and hollered for my partner. Eddie appeared in the doorway, spotted the box cutter, and took a running leap onto Battaglia's back. Battaglia outweighed Eddie by a good hundred pounds. He managed to stay on his feet, but with Eddie riding him his focus shifted from slicing me to shreds to shedding the tall guy playing horsey with him. It was just the opportunity I needed. I took aim.
The bullet hit the blade of the box cutter, sending it flying out of Battaglia's hand. Battaglia let out a throat-searing scream, barely audible over the ringing in my ears from the gun blast. Eddie screamed too, but I wouldn't embarrass him later by pointing it out. Eddie slid off the man's back and I slid my gun back into the holster. A foot hooked behind the ankles, an elbow jammed into the solar plexus, and the guy fell on his butt with a fwump. Ta-da!
Eddie yanked Battaglia's arms behind him and slapped cuffs onto his wrists. Click-click. After rolling Battaglia onto his side, he stood over him, his gun pointed at Battaglia's head.
I took a deep, calming breath. With Battaglia now immobilized, the adrenaline waned and the hurt kicked in full force. Yee-ow! The cut pulsed with a raw, prickly pain. I gritted my teeth and checked my manicure. My index fingernail was chipped. Damn. Should've killed the asshole when I had the chance.