Death, Taxes, and Mistletoe Mayhem (Tara Holloway Series #6.5)

Death, Taxes, and Mistletoe Mayhem (Tara Holloway Series #6.5)

by Diane Kelly

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466847088
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 10/29/2013
Series: Tara Holloway Series
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 84
Sales rank: 45,748
File size: 924 KB

About the Author

Diane Kelly is a former state assistant attorney general who spent much of her career fighting, or inadvertently working for, white-collar criminals. A recipient of the 2009 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, she has received more than two dozen RWA chapter awards. Diane's fiction, tax and humor pieces have appeared in True Love Magazine, Writer's Digest Yearbook, Romance Writers Report, Byline Magazine, and other publications. Her Tara Holloway series begins with Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure.

Diane Kelly is a former state assistant attorney general and tax advisor who spent much of her career fighting, or inadvertently working for, white-collar criminals. She is also a proud graduate of the Mansfield, Texas Citizens Police Academy. The first book in Diane’s IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway series, Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure, received a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. Book #2, Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte, won a Reviewers Choice award. Diane has combined her fascination with law enforcement and her love of animals in her K-9 cop Paw Enforcement series.

Read an Excerpt



IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway

Early Monday morning my boss, Lu "the Lobo" Lobozinski, stepped into my office. A long sparkly silver garland encircled her neck like a festive holiday boa. With one hand she flicked a loose end of garland over her shoulder. With the other she tossed a file onto my already crowded desk. "Take a look into this case. The paperwork checked out, but the auditor has a hunch this taxpayer's up to no good."

It was a mere two weeks until Christmas, and here my boss was acting as if she were Ebenezer Scrooge and I was Bob Cratchit. With the holiday hustle and bustle in full swing and my shopping far from finished, the last thing I needed was another case to work on. But there was no use complaining. Lu's expectations of her staff were as high as her eight-inch strawberry-blond beehive. Besides, she punished whiners with crappy cases. The last guy who'd complained got stuck investigating a company that disposed of medical waste. Ew. The mere thought of an amputated limb had my breakfast of Fruity Pebbles creeping back up my throat.

"I'll get right on it," I promised.

As my boss left the room, I pulled the file toward me and flipped it open. Inside I found the last six years' tax returns for a woman named Nadine Gramercy who operated a wholesale jewelry business under the name Gramercy Gems and Jewels. While nothing suspicious appeared on the returns for the even-numbered years, in each of the odd-numbered years she'd filed a Form 4684, claiming a sizable theft loss, the most recent in the amount of $150,000. The pattern seemed suspicious, as if she'd skipped a year between each claimed loss in an attempt to stay off the IRS radar. What's more, her reported income in each of the loss years was 40 to 50 percent higher than it was in the non-loss years, as if she were finagling her earnings to pay the least amount of tax. Then again, there was nothing necessarily illegal about strategically timing sales to lump profits into one year or another.

After each break-in, Nadine had relocated her warehouse, first from a mini-storage facility in Dallas to another in the southwestern suburb of Grand Prairie, then from Grand Prairie to Arlington, a suburb a few miles farther west. She'd reported the thefts to the various police departments. Their reports were included in the file, along with invoices from Nadine's suppliers that itemized the pieces purportedly taken. A dozen topaz necklace and earring sets, style number TS9876. Fifty opal pendants, style number OP7321. Thirty sapphire rings, style number SR5352. The list went on to include amethyst and diamond bracelets, emerald cuff links, and gold chains, each identified by a specific style number.

Unfortunately, yet as was typical, the police had taken a report, dusted for fingerprints, and found nothing. The surfaces had been wiped clean.

No evidence.

No suspects.

No convictions.

Oddly, despite the repeated thefts, the woman hadn't bothered to purchase insurance. No wonder the auditor thought things seemed fishy. Still, it could be nothing. They say where there's smoke there's fire, but sometimes where there's smoke there's just a bagel jammed in a toaster.

I slid the file into my briefcase with my Glock, grabbed my purse, and headed out of the office.

Nadine Gramercy lived in Southlake, a highend neighborhood northwest of Dallas, the type of place where "real" housewives with artificial breasts, bleached teeth, acrylic nails, and spray-on tans lived. The houses could best be described as traditional and sprawling. No cozy cottages here.

I pulled my government-issued "G-ride" sedan to the curb in front of Nadine's house, a brown brick and stone model that stretched across a perfectly manicured lawn. Both the house and lawn were outlined with a pristine row of tasteful white holiday lights, currently unlit since it was daylight. I climbed out and made my way up the flagstone path to her double front doors, which sported twin oversized holiday wreaths made of real, fragrant pine boughs held together with red velvet bows. The crisp, fresh smell reminded me of the piney woods back home in East Texas where I grew up.

My knock was answered a half minute later by a woman dressed in a fitted gray pantsuit that showed off her tall, trim physique. A choker-length strand of gorgeous, shiny pearls encircled her long, thin neck, while twin pearls studs adorned her earlobes. Her mahogany locks feathered about her fiftyish face, which bore a slightly perturbed expression. She hadn't been expecting me, and from the steaming mug in her hand, it looked like I'd interrupted her morning coffee. A little hard to feel guilty about that, given it was going on 10:30 A.M. now and I'd already been working for two hours. My morning coffee was only a distant memory. A pearl bracelet encircled the wrist supporting the coffee mug.

"Ms. Gramercy?" I asked.

She cocked her head slightly, her eyes wary as she gave me and the car parked at the curb behind me a quick once-over. "Yes?"

I stuck out my hand. "I'm Tara Holloway, from IRS criminal investigations."

Nadine hesitated a moment as she appeared to process the information, then stuck out a hand. Another strand of lustrous pearls encircled her narrow wrist. "What can I do for you, Miss Holloway?"

For one, she could invite me inside to speak privately instead of forcing me to stand out here in the frigid air, huffing steam every time I spoke. But since she held her ground, she didn't seem so inclined.

"I have a few questions about the theft losses you've claimed on your tax returns."

Her frown deepened and she stepped onto the porch, pulling the door closed behind her. "I don't understand. I've been through all of this with the auditor."

Defensiveness. To be expected probably. After all, who likes to be interrogated, especially repeatedly? Still, the twitch below her left ear told me there was more to this story than she was letting on.

Having been well trained in investigation techniques, I knew that sometimes the best way to get information was to sneak up on it rather than to approach it directly. Information was like a cat with a vet appointment.

"I'm performing an interdepartmental review," I said, offering both a fib and an insincere smile. "A cross-check to make sure the auditors are doing their jobs correctly." As if.

Her posture relaxed slightly. "I see."

I held her file up. "I noticed you weren't given a deduction for the cost of your property insurance."

"I didn't buy any," she replied. "I got a few quotes, but the premiums were exorbitant. I decided to take my chances. Of course, that turned out to be a mistake. But, as they say, hindsight is twenty-twenty." She offered a small smile I believed to be just as insincere as my own.

"A shame the police never found the thieves," I said. "What do you think they did with the jewelry?"

"Who knows?" she said. "Maybe they pawned it. Or they could have sold it on eBay or Craigslist."

"Well, I hope they paid their taxes on the income."

I chuckled.

She didn't.

I casually lifted a shoulder. "Any idea who the thieves might have been? Could it have been an inside job? Maybe an employee?" I knew from her tax records that she worked alone, but sometimes playing stupid led to a target letting their guard down.

"Like I told the police," she said a little too snappily, "I'm a one-woman operation. Nobody else had a key to my unit. My guess is the thief was another tenant at the storage facility. Maybe someone saw me taking my jewelry cases in and out of the closet."

I stared at her, wishing my gaze could bore through her skull and into her brain, find the appropriate memory bank, and access the critical information she was clearly keeping from me. I also wished I could take a look around inside. The way she'd closed the door, as if to hide secrets, had me thinking there was something in the house she didn't want me to see. Without a search warrant, however, I could go inside only if she agreed to let me in. I had no doubt she'd refuse if I asked. I also had no doubt that if I asked and was turned down, she'd remove whatever evidence she was hiding while I was at the courthouse trying to get a warrant.

"Thanks for your time," I said finally. "I'll let everyone back at the office know that this case is closed."

The flicker of relief that crossed Nadine's face told me the case was anything but.

Back in my car, I racked my brain, trying to figure out how best to proceed. What would Nadine have done with the jewelry if it hadn't truly been taken? The most likely scenario was that she'd sold it off the books and pocketed the profits tax-free, but short of comparing her records to those of her customers, I had no idea how to prove the jewelry hadn't actually been stolen. Problem was, Nadine had over a hundred customers spread throughout the Dallas–Fort Worth metropolitan area and surrounding counties. Reviewing all their records to see if they jibed with Nadine's would take weeks, if not months. With my huge caseload, I didn't have that kind of time, especially to devote to an investigation that was iffy, at best. Besides, there was always the possibility that she'd kept the jewelry for herself or given it as gifts to family and friends.

Hmm. What to do? ...

I supposed it couldn't hurt to take a look at her storage unit, see if it might hold any clues.

I riffled through the file until I found the lease agreement for Nadine's current warehouse. The rental agreement indicated she now housed her inventory in Unit C-56 of Mid-Cities Mini-Storage, a facility located in Euless, a smaller city that sat between DFW Airport and Fort Worth.

I typed the address into my GPS, cranked up the engine, and tuned in to a radio station featuring holiday tunes. I sang along as I weaved through traffic to Euless. It was probably a good thing my partner wasn't with me. My tone-deaf rendition of "Joy to the World" would bring joy to no one.

Twenty minutes later, I pulled to the curb across the street from the storage complex. As I'd expected, the place was surrounded by an iron fence and could be accessed only through an entrance gate equipped with a keypad. I supposed I could talk to the management and see if they'd let me inside to take a look around, but I didn't have a search warrant and I preferred to stay incognita if possible. I turned off my engine and waited, taking advantage of the downtime to cyber-window-shop on my phone.

I was perusing the offerings on the Neiman Marcus Web site when a pickup truck loaded high with children's bedroom furniture came up the road and eased into the driveway of the mini-storage. The driver's-side window came down and a male hand came out, jabbing at the keypad to activate the sliding gate. I started my engine and pulled up as close to his back bumper as I dared, tailing the truck through the gate before it slid closed behind us.

The pickup turned right alongside a building with a large A spray-painted in block stencil on the end. I continued down the main lane until I reached the building marked with a C. Turning down the row, I slowed as the numbers increased.




There it was. Unit C-56.

I pulled to a stop. All I could see was a closed metal door with a sliding bolt held fast with a padlock.

Hmm ...

I cut my engine, climbed out of my car, and after glancing left and right to make sure there were no witnesses, tugged on the lock. No luck. I jiggled the slide bolt. No luck with that, either. I gave the door a kick. It didn't budge, but at least the kick relieved a little of my frustration.

I'd hoped the unit would provide some clues, but I apparently set my hopes too high. The door just stood there, silent and unyielding, keeping its secrets.

A burst of brisk winter wind funneled through the narrow passage between buildings, lifting the hem of my blazer, messing my hair, and blowing dust into my eyes. Mother Nature seemed to be suffering a case of PMS and taking it out on me.

I climbed back into my car to think. Sometimes a witness inadvertently gave an investigator a clue. My mind reviewed my earlier conversation with Nadine. What had she told me?

That the insurance premiums were exorbitant. Nothing to go on there.

That she was a one-woman operation. Nadine had taken no deduction for wages paid to employees, nor had she deducted payments to an independent salesperson. The auditor found no evidence that anyone else had been involved in the business. Probably a dead end.

That perhaps another tenant had stolen her jewelry. Another tenant. Hmm ... Could the purported thief have been another tenant who was in cahoots with Nadine? A tenant who stole the jewelry in an orchestrated heist, then returned it to Nadine in exchange for a kickback? Or maybe a tenant who took the jewelry, made an untraceable cash payment to Nadine in return, and then went on to sell the jewelry himself?

I riffled through the file again, pulling out the police reports from the various jurisdictions. Each report indicated that the lock had been cut with bolt cutters. Interestingly, none of the reports referenced the other thefts. Repeated reports of burglary by a single citizen in one jurisdiction might have raised eyebrows. Because Nadine had moved her inventory around the metroplex, none of the police departments had been aware of her multiple reports. Looked like Nadine had kept the fact that she was been robbed multiple times to herself.

The detectives in each department had performed a basic investigation and, per standard protocol, obtained a printout from the management of each storage facility that detailed the entry gate activity on the dates of the thefts. The reports indicated they'd run background checks on each of the tenants whose names appeared on the gate access list. The Dallas detective discovered that one of the tenants who'd accessed the gate on the date in question had a felony drug conviction, but no theft convictions. One of the tenants in Arlington had an assault conviction, but the rest were clean. Although the detective from Grand Prairie had interviewed a tenant with a previous home burglary conviction, there'd been no direct evidence linking the man to the break-in at Nadine's mini-storage.

Though the detectives had done a good job with the facts they'd been given, I was privy to the additional fact that there had been multiple thefts and, unlike them, I had access to all the police reports and gateentry data. I laid the lists side by side and compared the names on each list, looking for a common entry. The Arlington list contained a Steve Johnson, while the Grand Prairie list showed a Stephen Johnson. Could be the same guy. The Dallas list included a Harry Kruger, while the Arlington list showed a Samantha Kruger. Maybe a husband and wife? While I pondered these possibilities, my eyes noted one name that appeared on all three lists.

Deidre Freitag.


Coincidence? No freaking way. There were at least a hundred storage facilities spread throughout the area. The odds were too great that both women would have rented units in the same three locations. Yep, the clues told me Nadine Gramercy and Deidre Freitag were partners in crime.

One-woman operation, my ass.

That lie put Nadine on Santa's naughty list.


Sexy Santa

Fort Worth Police Officer Megan Luz

At eight o'clock Tuesday morning, I opened the back door to my cruiser and waited until my fluffy K-9 partner, Sergeant Brigit, hopped inside.

Brigit and I had more in common than I'd like to admit. Long black hair. Dogged determination. A propensity to snarl and snap when irritated.

We were both mutts, too. Brigit was a Belgian shepherd–Rottweiler mix. My heritage was primarily Irish (hence my first name, Megan) and Mexican (hence my surname, Luz). Like many Texans, I also had a few drops of Native American blood, too, thanks to a great-great-greatgrand-mother who was a Cherokee and married a white man to avoid persecution and better her lot in life. A high point in neither American history nor my family annals, but events without which I would not exist. As for me, I hoped to marry for love. Well, love and an extended cable package. My studio apartment came only with basic.


Excerpted from "Death, Taxes, and Mistletoe Mayhem"
by .
Copyright © 2013 Diane Kelly.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Death, Taxes, and Mistletoe Mayhem (Tara Holloway Series) 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice holiday short story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love this series, keep them coming
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This novella is a vehicle used to introduce fans of the Tara Holloway series to Ms. Kelly's other great series, "Paw Enforcement". Both series feature clever mysteries/cases, great characters, pathos, humor, and romance. This novella is cute, but it doesn't give readers a complete picture as to how good the 2 series really are. Give them a chance. Chronologically speaking, this novella is best read just before the Holloway novel: "Death, Taxes, and Hot Pink Leg Warmers".
InspirationalAngel531 More than 1 year ago
Title: Death, Taxes, & Mistletoe Mayhem - Tara Halloway Series Book 6.5 Author: Diane Kelly Published: 10-29-2013 Publisher: St. Martin's Press Pages: 84 Genre: Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense Sub Genre: Women Slesuths; Short Reads; Romance ISBN: 13: 9781466847088 ASIN: B00DK41P34 Reviewer: DelAnne Reviewed For: NetGalley Rating: 4 Stars I received a copy of "Death, Taxes, & Mistletoe Mayhem" from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review. Description From the Publisher: ’Tis the season for death, taxes, and maybe even love under the mistletoe… Christmas is fast approaching when IRS Special Agent Tara is assigned a new case involving a jewelry wholesaler who’s repeatedly claimed large theft losses on her tax returns. Was Nadine Gramercy really robbed, or were the thefts a mere ruse to pocket tax-free profits? Tara believes Nadine belongs at the top of Santa’s “naughty” list. Her investigation takes her to Chisholm Trail mall, where she meets Fort Worth Police Officer Megan Luz and her fluffy K-9 partner, Brigit. Though Megan believes Tara is barking up the wrong tree, she agrees to provide backup if a bust goes down. Moreover, they decide to team up as matchmakers to find love for Chris Rasmussen, a pediatric nurse who moonlights at the mall playing Santa Claus. Chris has a warm heart and a body that’s hot enough to melt to the polar ice caps. This sexy-yet-sad shopping mall Santa was recently dumped by his fickle fiancée, leaving the not-so-old elf more jilted than jolly. Can Tara and Megan solve the crime…and lift Santa’s spirits in time for Christmas? My Review: A novella that keeps the Christmas Spirit thriving for the reader. With characters that are well developed and likeable and a plot that runs quickly and smoothly. Death, Taxes and Mistletoe Mayhem is a fun read to be enjoyed while on the bus or waiting in the doctor's office. My rating is 4 out of 5 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love the series but could have skipped this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sheilag2367 More than 1 year ago
This was such an entertaining and fun story that I didn't put it down till I finished it! Officer Luz and Brigit's point of view were a great addition to a wonderful story and I cannot wait to read their continuing escapades!
jef71 More than 1 year ago
I win this book in a contest I enjoyed the book. It was funny and I love the dog. Its about the IRS and Officer and her dog and a lady who claim the jewely was stolen but she sold it an then she would move her shop to another county. The IRS was investigating her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TinaR19 More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this Christmas novella based on the Tara Holloway series. If there is any chance of getting into trouble Tara is sure to find a way to do it. I really like how Diane Kelly’s characters have such a wonderful sense of humor that you will find yourself laughing out loud quite often, so I recommend that you make sure you are not in a place where you need to be quiet when you read any of her books. If you are a fan of Stephanie Plum you will really enjoy reading about Tara Holloway!  IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway has to investigate a case right before Christmas that involves a jewelry store owner who has claimed too many losses due to thefts from her warehouse on her taxes over the past few years. To prove whether Nadine Gramercy was really robbed or did the stealing herself Tara will spend time at the mall where Nadine’s store is located and going over the receipts in in one of the other stores. While she’s there she meets Megan, a police officer who occasionally helps out at the mall with Brigit, her K-9 partner, and she agrees to help Tara if she needs her to make an arrest. As they spend more time together helping each other out Tara also meets Chris, the cute guy playing Santa in the mall, and Charlotte, the store manager of Victoria’s Secret. Tara and Megan decide to play matchmaker for Chris and Charlotte who have had their hearts broken enough to keep them from getting involved with someone who just might be perfect for one another. Brigit has decided not to be left out and adds her paws into getting the couple together for Christmas too. Sometimes simple plans do not always go as planned. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
ReadYourWrites More than 1 year ago
Reviewed by Kim for Read Your Writes Book Reviews I’ve wanted to read a Diane Kelly book since meeting her at RWA in 2012. Until then, I hadn’t heard of her and I probably wouldn’t have even noticed her, without her big pink beehive wig. I mean think about it, if an author dressed that crazy, then you know her books have to be a little crazy as well. I wouldn’t exactly say that Death, Taxes, and Mistletoe is a crazy book. It’s an interesting book. The book focuses on Tara Holloway, Megan Luz, and Brigit the dog. Tara Holloway is an IRS Special Agent, who is tasked with the job of capturing people who cheat the IRS out of money. Megan Luz is a Fort Worth Police Officer and Brigit is actually Sergeant Brigit, Megan’s K-9 partner and ranking officer. In this installment of the Tara Holloway Series, Tara is tasked with the job of finding out if jewelry wholesaler Nadine Gramercy is committing tax fraud. She goes undercover as a mall CPA at a local jewelry store to see if in fact, Nadine is doing something illegal and has a partner. Tara enlists the help of Megan and they fast become friends. Told in first person from Tara’s, Megan’s and Brigit’s point of view, Death, Taxes, and Mistletoe Mayham is charming and humorous with several laugh out loud, spew your drink moments. And a dog who seems to be smarter than anyone else playing cupid. Death, Taxes, and Mistletoe Mayham marks the start of a new series starring Officer Megan Lutz and Sergeant Brigit called Paw Enforcement. I have to say I’m looking forward to reading it and more of the Tara Holloway Series as well. Source: NetGalley
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nota really great read.