"Hilarious tale of IRS agent up against a southern militia group as well as a megachurch pastor"
Reviewed by Patricia Woodside
Posted October 10, 2012
IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway has her hands full. If
not the backwoods militants who threaten her safety or the
megachurch pastor who is using his church like a personal
ATM, then it's the sticky extra-hold hairspray that her
favors for her pink beehive.
Tara Holloway is funny. DEATH, TAXES AND EXTRA-HOLD
HAIRSPRAY is even funnier. The chuckles kept coming as Tara
grappled with these two prickly cases with the help of
another special agent, Nick, who's got both the pastor and
Tara in his sights.
Doesn't seem as though a tax attorney should be quite as
witty as author Diane Kelly. Then again, I'm guessing
either finds a lot funny in the course of her day job or
uses humor to escape its boredom. Either way, readers are
the beneficiaries of a quick-witted heroine whose dry wit
makes her laughable escapades more delightful. Caught
between the boyfriend she can count on and the co-worker
she's attracted to, Tara must navigate the shark-infested
waters of her personal life as skillfully and doggedly as
she does her tax cases.
I'm not sure how many books are in the Death and Taxes
I'll definitely be back for more. I haven't laughed this
much while reading in a long time.
IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway is hard at work again. This
time, she's after Noah Fischer, the charismatic minister of
a Dallas mega church known as The Ark. While the pastor may
not worship a golden calf, he's milking the church like his
personal cash cow, financing his luxurious home, designer
wardrobe, and lavish vacations via the church's collection
plate. Despite repeated requests for the taxes due, Fischer
has yet to render unto Caesar.
As if dealing with an uncooperative preacher and his
extensive legal team isn't bad enough, Tara's also pursuing
the vice-president of The Republic of Texas, a militant
separatist group purporting to operate its own sovereign
nation. August Buchmeyer hasn't paid taxes since Ronald
Reagan was in the White House and is none too happy when
Tara comes to collect.
Tara's usual partner, Eddie, has been temporarily promoted
to head the Dallas Criminal Investigations office while
their boss, Lu Lobozinski, undergoes treatment for lung
cancer. Unfortunately, the chemotherapy reduces Lu's
signature eight-inch strawberry-blond beehive to pitiful
peach fuzz. Even Lu's Chinese contraband extra-hold
hairspray isn't enough to give her thinning hair its
customary height and attitude. Tara vows to find Lu a wig
just like her usual updo, but it's not easy to find a
beehive wig these days, let alone one in Lu's unique
To make matters worse, Tara's boyfriend, Brett, has gone to
Atlanta for business, leaving her vulnerable to the charms
of Nick Pratt, another special agent assigned to assist her
on the Ark and Republic of Texas cases.
Tara's life has become a hopelessly tangled mess. Can she
find a way out of these hairy situations?p
This is what Happens When Rednecks
Much Time on Their Hands
"Damn." I dropped the phone back into its cradle on my desk.
I needed help on a case, but it seemed no one was available
this afternoon. I'd called every special agent in the Dallas
IRS Criminal Investigations office.
Make that every special agent but one.
That one sat directly across the hall, his cowboy boots
propped on his desk, his right hand rhythmically squeezing a
blue stress ball as he eyed me. I sat at my desk, pretending
not to notice.
Why didn't I want Nick Pratt working on this case with me?
Because the guy had whiskey-colored eyes that drank a girl
in, an ass you could bounce a quarter off, and more sex
appeal than George Clooney, Brad Pitt, and Johnny Depp
realize these factors might all sounds like reasons to want
to work with him. Problem was, I was in a committed
relationship with a wonderful guy and, despite that fact,
wasn't entirely sure I could resist temptation.
Better not put myself to the test, right?
My usual partner, Eddie Bardin, had received an unexpected
temporary promotion to Acting Director three weeks ago when
doctors found a spot on the right lung of our boss, Lu
Lobozinski. Lu had taken time off for her chemotherapy
treatments and recovery, appointing Eddie to take her place
until she was able to return.
Eddie's promotion left me to handle a buttload of cases on
my own. And not just any old buttload, but cases that had
been purposely put on the back burner for years because each
case was guaranteed to be a major pain in the ass.
One of the biggest of these cases involved an
eighty-three-year old chicken rancher who'd served seven
consecutive terms as vice president of a radical
secessionist group. Another involved a popular, charismatic
preacher who financed a lavish lifestyle via his
congregants' tax-deductible donations to his mega-church. It
was almost enough to send me back to my boring old job at
the CPA firm.
But not quite.
The phone on my desk rang. The caller readout displayed the
name N PRATT.
Dang. No way could I ignore the guy now. It would be too
I looked across the hall as I picked up the phone. Nick
looked back at me, one thick brown brow raised. How the guy
could look so damn sexy in a plain white dress shirt and
basic tan slacks was beyond me. Maybe it was the oversized
gold horseshoe-shaped belt buckle that did it, drawing
attention to his nether regions like a flashing neon sign
that said wanna get lucky?
"Big Bob's Bait Bucket," I said in my best southern twang.
"We got whatcha need if whatcha need is worms."
You got me. I'm a bit of a smart ass. But I had spent two
summers in high school working for Big Bob. Minimum wage
plus all the free nightcrawlers I
I wanted. Which was none.
Nick shot me a pointed look across the hall. "Why haven't
you asked me up to help you?"
Because you make my girlie parts quiver in a very
unprofessional manner. But I couldn't very well tell him
that now, could I? Better think quick, Tara.
"You looked . . . um . . . " Gorgeous? Sexy as hell?
Absolutely boinkable? I
went with "busy."
He grinned, flashing his chipped tooth, an imperfection that
somehow only added to his primal appeal. "I fake it pretty
good, don't I? That's how I got fast-tracked to senior
Nick's career as a special agent with the IRS had indeed
been meteoric, at least until three years ago when he'd been
forced to flee the country or die at the hands of Marcos
Mendoza, a violent, money-laundering tax cheat.
Lucky for Nick, Lu had later assigned me and Eddie to renew
the case against Mendoza.
After the creep threatened Eddie and his family, I'd
smuggled Nick back into the U.S. and the two of us had
brought Mendoza to his knees. Literally. Hard for the man to
stay standing after I'd shot off his left testicle. I'd
considered taking the gonad to a taxidermist for mounting,
but I doubted my mother would let me hang it over the
fireplace back home next to Dad's sixteen-point trophy
Nick sat up at his desk, his expression serious now. "You
gave me my life back, Tara. I'll never be too busy for you."
Nick was directly offering to help me out. No girl in her
right mind could say no to that, even if she had been
avoiding him. There's only so much willpower to go around.
hung up the phone. "Saddle up, cowboy," I called across the
hall as I stood and grabbed my purse. "We've got a chicken
farmer to check in on."
We snagged a car from the Treasury's fleet and drove for
what seemed an eternity through flat, dry country. The radio
was tuned to a country station to combat our boredom and the
air conditioner turned on full blast to combat the outdoor
temperature, which had topped out at one-hundred and three.
That's August in north Texas. Brutal.
Nick had brought his stress ball with him and manipulated it
in his right hand, slowly turning it and squeezing. His
movements were oddly sensual and had me wondering how his
hands might feel squeezing certain parts of me.
We drove past a farmer driving a green John Deere tractor
though a field, kicking up dust and scattering insects, most
of which veered on a suicidal path toward the windshield of
the car. I was glad I wasn't driving my precious red
convertible BMW out here.
A colorful assortment of bug guts now decorated the
windshield like miniature Rorschach ink-blot tests. One of
the spots looked vaguely like our boss, who'd sported a
towering strawberry-blond beehive since the sixties. Her
hairdo had to be at least eight-inches tall, held together
by a thorough coating of extra-hold hairspray.
I pointed at the pinkish goo. "What's that look like to
Nick squinted at the glass. "The Lobo."
"My thought exactly."
Nick glanced my way and my crotch clenched reflexively. He
always looked hot, but he was especially attractive at the
moment. He'd topped his stylishly shaggy brown hair with the
white felt Stetson I'd bought him shortly after sneaking him
back out of Mexico. Yep, I'd always had a soft spot for
cowboys. Make that two soft spots--one spot was
metaphorical, the other was between my thighs.
Nick flashed a mischievous grin. "You know what's the last
thing to go through a bug's mind when he hits your
I rolled my eyes and pulled to a stop behind another white
government-issue sedan parked by a rusty gate. "Here we are.
The middle of BFE."
A spray-painted plywood sign affixed to the barbed-wire
fence read "Property of the Republic of Texas. Trespassers
will be violated."
Nick groaned. "You didn't tell me we'd be dealing with
"You didn't ask," I said. "And need I remind you that you
volunteered for this assignment?"
"Next time I'll ask for more details before I commit," he
The Republic of Texas was a separatist group, a bunch of
anti-government loonies who referred to themselves as
"Texians" and operated an unofficial sovereign state. For
such a small organization they'd proved to be a huge pain in
the ass. The group had issued numerous bogus court summons
and filed frivolous lawsuits with both the Supreme Court of
Texas and the International Court of Justice at the Hague,
challenging the annexation of Texas in 1845 by the United
That's what happens when rednecks have too much time on
After shootouts between federal agents and armed extremists
in Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas, the government had
received a lot of flack, virtually all of it from whack jobs
and nearly all of it undue. There's no clean way to take
down these types of people. They don't exactly think and act
Government agencies had learned to be extra careful in
handling interactions with members of such groups. In 1997,
state troopers had negotiated a surrender with Richard
McLaren, the former leader of the Republic of Texas, after
he'd been accused of fraud and kidnapping. Still, two of the
group's members had refused to cooperate and one of them had
been shot dead after they'd opened fire on a police
Thus, despite the fact that August and Betty Buchmeyer
hadn't filed a tax return since Ronald and Nancy Reagan were
bumping uglies in the White House, Lu had made a strategic
decision not to arrest the couple. Rather, she'd instructed
me only to see what we could collect from the elderly
deadbeats, perhaps make an example of them to the dozen or
steadfast Texians who stubbornly stuck to their beliefs.
Collections work was boring as hell, essentially standing
guard while staff from the collections department seized any
non-exempt assets. While most tax evaders cursed and glared,
others moaned and sobbed, lamenting the loss of their RV's,
their collection of mink coats, their limited-edition
prints. But sheez, by the time it got to that point they'd
been given ample opportunity to make payment arrangements
and had stubbornly refused. It wouldn't be fair to honest,
hardworking taxpayers to let scoff laws off the hook.
So here we were.
Nick and I climbed out of the car. The intense mid-summer
heat caused an instant sweat to break out on my skin. Nick
shrugged into his bulletproof vest and a navy sport coat. I
slipped my protective vest on over my white cotton blouse
and secured my gun in my hip holster, covering them both
with a lightweight yellow blazer. Standard precautions.
After all, it wasn't likely a couple of octogenarians would
put up a fight. Right?
A hundred feet inside the gate sat a weather-beaten blue
single-wide trailer in a thick patch of weeds. The house
stood slightly cock-eyed from settling unevenly into the
reddish soil. The metal skirting had pulled away in places
and there was no telling what manner of vermin had made a
home under the structure. An enormous, outdated satellite
dish mounted on a sturdy five-foot pole stood between the
trailer and a lone, misshapen mesquite tree that struggled
for life in the bare, dry dirt. An ancient pickup with faded
two-tone brown paint sat on the far side of the dirt
driveway. Two rusted tractors, a dented horse trailer, and a
broken-down trampoline, its springs long since sprung,
littered the yard.
Fifty yards beyond the house stood a series of long metal
barns. The hot breeze blew toward us, carrying with it the
faint sounds of clucking and the stench of bird poop. Over
it all flew the Burnet flag, an azure background with a
single gold star in the middle, the last flag flown over
Texas when it was still an independent country.
Nick gave a whistle. "Boy howdy. This is quite the
"Buchmeyer's only the VP," I corrected.
"Whatever. It's still a dump."
No correction needed there.
The collections agent stepped out of her car and met us on
the asphalt. She was slender, fortyish, with curly black
hair. She wore a floral-print
dress with sensible flats, and introduced herself as Jane
"This shouldn't take long," Jenkins said. "I'm not expecting
to find much. Other than the trailer, twenty acres of
scrubland, and the pickup, there's no other property in
"What about the chickens?" I asked. "They've got to be worth
something." After all, a two-piece meal at KFC ran about
four bucks. I should know. I'd had some extra crispy for
Jenkins shook her head. "We've got a strict policy in
collections. We don't seize anything that eats and craps.
Costs too much to care for animals."
Made sense. Better to wait for the owner to sell the birds
then seize the resulting profits. Problem was, the IRS had
levied the Buchmeyers' bank account years ago, garnering
over six grand in one fell swoop just after the couple
received a large payment from one of their customers. Since
then, they couple had taken to operating on a cash-only
Where the cash was being held was anyone's guess. With any
luck, we'd find some in their trailer today, maybe under a
mattress or in their toilet tank. Eddie'd once collected ten
grand from a delinquent taxpayer who'd hidden large bills in
his bowling bag, including stacks of hundreds stashed in his
bowling shoes under a pair of Odor Eaters. When Eddie
couldn't find the cash he was sure the man had somewhere in
his possession, he'd left the apartment and pulled the fire
alarm at the complex. On hearing the alarm, the guy ran
outside with the bowling bag. A dead
Yep, sometimes being a special agent calls for creative
Nick, Jenkins, and I carefully stepped across the metal
cattle guard and walked up to the gate. The opening was
secured by two large, rusty padlocks joined with heavy gauge
chain thick enough to anchor an aircraft carrier.
I stepped forward and tugged on the locks. They didn't
Jenkins frowned. "I called ahead and told them to unlock the
gate for us."
It wouldn't be the first time a taxpayer refused to
cooperate. Wouldn't be the last, either. For some reason,
people didn't like turning over their sports cars,
big-screen televisions, and jewelry collections to the IRS.
Not that we were likely to find anything like that here. The
Buchmeyer's profits had been modest. If they'd paid on time,
their tax bill would've been paltry. But once three decades
of interest and penalties were tacked on, those tiny tax
bills had grown to over a hundred grand.
The three of us spent a few minutes searching for any keys
that might be hidden about, turning over rocks, checking in
and under the mailbox and behind the fence posts. We came up
I glanced back at the trailer. The faded blue-and-white
striped bath towel serving as a curtain in the front window
was pulled back, an older woman's face visible. She raised a
gnarled hand and gave me the finger. Wouldn't be the first
or last time that happened, either.
"Got their phone number handy?" I asked Jenkins.
She rattled it off and I dialed the Buchmeyers on my cell.
After five rings, someone picked up the phone. "Hello?" an
old man's voice rasped.
"Mr. Buchmeyer, this is IRS Special Agent Tara Holloway. We
need you to come on out here and unlock your gate."
An elderly man's face appeared in the window now. "I ain't
going to do that, young lady," he spat. "I don't recognize
the authority of the United States government to tax me nor
seize my property. This here place belongs to the Republic
of Texas. Didn't you see the sign?"
"The sign doesn't mean anything, Mr. Buchmeyer."
"Like hell it don't! If you all dare to enter my property,
I'll be obligated to defend it. Now you go about your
business and let me go about mine." With that, he hung up
the phone and yanked the curtain closed.
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