Breathless (A Corey Shaw mystery Book 1) by Alex Morgan

Excerpt:

Corey found the local police chief and a forensic team from Hyannis on the sandy shore below the wooden deck of the Boatslip, one of the most popular spots in Provincetown. The size of the hotel meant that many guys were in one place and near the crime scene. Not good. The Boat Slip’s afternoon tea dance brought even more people crowding onto the outside deck, which also served as a dance floor. Even now, several men peered over the railing at the activity on the beach below.  Soon, more would follow.

Police Chief Richard Stewart greeted him as he checked in with the officer guarding the scene.

“Damn! You didn’t waste any time getting here, Shaw,” Chief Stewart said, looking at his watch. “Where were you when I called? Orleans?”

“Close enough,” Corey winked at his friend.

“Are you ever going to tell me how you move around the state so fast?”

“Perhaps.”

Chief Stewart shook his head and led Corey to the corpse.

“John Doe. Strangled,” he said. The grim look on his hard-lined face told Corey that something had rattled the chief’s staunch reserve. “And he was tortured before being killed.”

Having had frequent contact with the chief in the past, Corey had never seen him so shaken by a crime.

As they knelt next to the victim, the chief pulled back a tarp covering the naked body of a young man lying face down in the sand.

He pointed out disturbing aspects of the murder. “Rope burns on the ankles, wrists, knees, and across the chest and upper arms where he was tied up. The deep cuts indicate that the bonds were tight.”

He motioned toward the buttocks. The man had a narrow waist and a well-rounded ass, which had been slashed many times. Long gashes crossed the tanned cheeks, drawing blood that had long since dried.

“Looks like he was caned or severely whipped while he was tied up,” the chief continued. Similar slashes covered his back and legs, but not as severe as those on the ass.

“This has been done to him before, hasn’t it?” Corey asked.

“What do you mean?” Stewart gave him a quizzical look. He glanced at one of the forensics agents who knelt down on the opposite side of the body. “Corey, this is Carolyn Seger from the Massachusetts State Bureau of Investigation.”

Corey shook hands with her.

“You’ve got a good eye,” she said, directing their attention to several old wounds concealed and healing among the fresh ones.

Judging by the look on the chief’s face, Corey surmised that he hadn’t experienced anything like this in Provincetown before.

Carolyn picked up the story where Stewart left off. “From the angle of the rope wound around the neck, it appears that the victim was hung until dead. There are very few signs of a struggle, which is strange.”

Hmmm…maybe not so strange, Corey thought.

She pointed to the bruising on the neck. “The visible side of the face appears purple, a gruesome contrast to the white skin of his shaved head.” She frowned while mumbling the latter under her breath. “Look at these.” The agent indicated to marks crisscrossing his back. “It appears he was wearing a leather…” She hesitated, as if searching for the right word.

“Harness,” Corey finished. “I have one that’s almost the same as the one he wore. Do you think it played a role in his death?”

Seger shook her head. “Preliminary indications all point to strangulation by hanging.” She looked at him. When his eyebrows furrowed in concentration, she asked, “What is it?”

He pointed to faint, red markings on the back of the victim’s neck that resembled the ones on his back. “It looks like he wore a leather collar, as well.” He shifted his position to lean forward.

“We noticed that, too, but I don’t think it contributed to his death, either.”

“Can we turn him over?” The agent nodded and donned plastic gloves. With the help of another forensic team member, they rolled the corpse on its back. The hideousness of the crime became more apparent. The entire face, covered in purple blemishes, was contorted into a grimace as he had struggled to breathe in his last few seconds of life. His tongue protruded grotesquely from the mouth. Corey’s gaze shifted lower. All the pubic hair was shaved away.

“Look at this.” Seger’s eyes widened at the new discovery. “There’s scabbing just above the penis, and it seems as though it goes all the way around the scrotum. Something’s irritated his skin because it’s broken out and re-healed, like the marks on his posterior.”

“He wore a cock ring,” Corey said and added, “I have that same trouble if I wear mine too long.” Eager to contribute to the investigation, he’d let out more personal information than the chief or agents wanted to hear. To divert attention from his momentary lack of discretion, he took another tack. “Are you sure this was murder?”

“What else could it be?” The chief’s jaw clenched.

“I’m thinking it could be an extreme BDSM session that went a bit too far.”

Chief Stewart and Carolyn stared, jaws dropping.

“In all my years in Provincetown, I’ve never heard of something like this, and I’ve heard and seen some pretty weird shit.” The chief shook his head.

“Many guys have execution fantasies, where the only way they can get off is to experience a near-death situation. In such a case like this, execution by hanging,” Corey explained. “The victim is hung to the point when he comes and then is released by the ‘executioner.’” He used his fingers to form quotation marks in the air. “This might have been one time when the executioner didn’t move fast enough.” He paused for a few seconds. “Or wouldn’t.”

“You mean this guy let someone hang him to death?”

“No,” Corey replied. “More than likely, he just wanted to experience a high similar to the choking game that’s somehow gotten to be popular. But here, instead of doing it himself, he got a bigger rush by having someone do it for him. The idea is to release the rope or garrote before death. It’s an incredibly dangerous game.”

“So this could just be a tragic accident?” Seger asked.

Corey held out his hands in supplication. “Perhaps. Otherwise, we may have to look for a guy who has to kill to get off. But there’s something odd here.”

“What?” The chief sounded as though he didn’t think it could get any stranger.

“Whether or not his death was accidental, where are his harness, collar and cock ring? If his executioner didn’t kill him on purpose, why remove his accouterments? Or if it was intentional, a murderer would’ve dumped the body and not worried about removing everything, unless he left his DNA on everything.”

“Maybe the leather belonged to the executioner and he took it back?” Chief Stewart said. “You know, like a master/slave thing?”

Corey considered that explanation for a minute. “Perhaps, but not likely, I would think. Cock rings are more personal items, and since they’re relatively cheap, guys buy them for themselves or someone they’re romantically involved with.”

“Could this be a lovers’ spat?” Carolyn asked.

“I hadn’t thought about that, but you may be right. And the murderer removed everything to keep as mementos, or because they had a sentimental value?”

“Some serial killers do that, too,” Chief Stewart muttered. Corey and Carolyn looked at him. “They will take something from each of their victims as a trophy.”

“Or the harness could hold some concrete evidence to the identity of the murderer,” Corey mused. “Something other than his body fluids.”

More about author, Alex Morgan:

Alan Scott (aka Alex Morgan) was born and raised in western Oklahoma. He majored in chemistry in college and moved to Dallas to get his master’s degree. Later he received a PhD in analytical chemistry. He now lives in the Baltimore area.

He has been an avid reader, particularly mysteries, after being introduced to the Hardy Boys in grade school. After reading his first Agatha Christie novel, Murder on the Orient Express, in junior high, mysteries have been one of his biggest enjoyments. He has always enjoyed reading comic books and loves the super-hero genre just as much.

Combining these two concepts, he has written four mystery novels introducing gay, paranormal sleuth Corey Shaw. Under the pen name Alan Scott, he has written a novel continuing the paranormal detective series with “Inside Passage to Murder” and the forthcoming “A Faire Day for Murder.”  He is also the author of several gay erotica short stories.

Commentary, Exclusive Excerpt & Giveaway! Drama Castle (Nicky and Noah Mysteries Book 7) by Joe Cosentino

WRITING A GAY COZY MYSTERY SERIES

Nicky and Noah Mysteries Book Seven: Drama Castle

by Joe Cosentino

As a teenager suffering from insomnia, I spent many late nights on my passion (It’s not what you think)—reading cozy mystery novels. I loved the quirky characters, plot twists and turns, clues, red herrings, captivating investigations, romance, humor, and of course the surprise yet justified endings. Even at that young age, I suspected Sherlock Holmes and John Watson were more than companions. They seemed to understand each other as only a couple could, and their devotion to one another was heartwarming. Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings seemed to share the same level of commitment. C. Auguste Dupin and his nameless companion, Lord Peter Wimsey and his valet Meryn Bunter, and Inspector Morse and Detective Sergeant Robbie Lewis exhibited similar close connections. It didn’t take me long to question why there were no openly gay characters in my favorite mystery series. So, I created my own. Since I am a college theatre professor, I decided to explore that wacky and wonderful world. (Try saying that three times fast with a tongue ring.)

For those of you who haven’t yet been baptized in Nicky and Noah land, the Nicky and Noah mysteries is a gay cozy mystery comedy series, meaning the setting is warm and cozy, the clues and murders (and laughs) come fast and furious, and there are enough plot twists and turns and a surprise ending to keep the pages turning faster than a priest going to altar boy orientation (as Nicky would say). At the center is the touching relationship between Associate Professor of Directing Nicky Abbondanza and Assistant Professor of Acting Noah Oliver. We watch them go from courting to marrying to adopting a child, all the while head over heels in love with each other (as we fall in love with them). Reviewers called the series hysterically funny farce, Murder She Wrote meets Hart to Hart meets The Hardy Boys, and captivating whodunits. One reviewer wrote they are the funniest books she’s ever read! (Love her!)

In Drama Queen (Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Award for Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Novel of the Year) Nicky directs the school play at Treemeadow College—which is named after its gay founders, Tree and Meadow. Theatre professors drops like stage curtains, and Nicky and Noah have to use their theatre skills, including impersonating other people, to figure out whodunit. In Drama Muscle (Rainbow Award Honorable Mention) Nicky and Noah don their gay Holmes and Watson personas again to find out why bodybuilding students and professors in Nicky’s bodybuilding competition at Treemeadow are dropping faster than barbells. In Drama Cruise it is summer on a ten-day cruise from San Francisco to Alaska and back. Nicky and Noah must figure out why college theatre professors are dropping like life rafts as Nicky directs a murder mystery dinner theatre show onboard ship starring Noah and other college theatre professors from across the US. Complicating matters are their both sets of wacky parents who want to embark on all the activities on and off the boat with the handsome couple. In Drama Luau, Nicky is directing the luau show at the Maui Mist Resort and he and Noah need to figure out why muscular Hawaiian hula dancers are dropping like grass skirts. Their department head/best friend and his husband, Martin and Ruben, are along for the bumpy tropical ride. In Drama Detective, Nicky is directing and ultimately co-starring with his husband Noah as Holmes and Watson in a new musical Sherlock Holmes play at Treemeadow College prior to Broadway. Martin and Ruben, their sassy office assistant Shayla, Nicky’s brother Tony, and Nicky and Noah’s son Taavi are also in the cast. Of course dead bodies begin falling over like hammy actors at a curtain call. Once again Nicky and Noah use their drama skills to figure out who is lowering the street lamps on the actors before the handsome couple get half-baked on Baker Street. In Drama Fraternity, Nicky is directing Tight End Scream Queen, a slasher movie filmed at Treemeadow College’s football fraternity house, co-starring Noah, Taavi, and Martin. Rounding out the cast are members of Treemeadow’s Christian football players’ fraternity along with two hunky screen stars. When the jammer, wide receiver, and more begin fading out with their scenes, Nicky and Noah once again need to use their drama skills to figure out who is sending young hunky actors to the cutting room floor before Nicky and Noah hit the final reel.

My spouse and I had vacationed in Alaska and Hawaii. Hence the settings of books three and four. Since we recently stayed in a real Scottish Castle, I knew book seven would take place there. So, in Drama Castle, Nicky is directing a historical film co-starring Noah and Taavi at Conall Castle in Scotland: When the Wind Blows Up Your Kilt It’s Time for A Scotch. Rounding out the cast are members of the mysterious Conall family who own the castle. When hunky men in kilts topple off the drawbridge and into the moat, it’s up to Nicky and Noah to use their acting skills to figure out whodunit before Nicky and Noah land in the dungeon. Nicky and Noah are joined by their best friends and fan favorites Martin and Ruben, and by Noah’s eccentric parents. Book seven adds a number of captivating new characters like Brody Naughton, the hunky head of Housekeeping with a red beard and roving eye for the oldest Conall brother, Barclay, and for Donal Blair a waiter in the castle’s Great Hall dining room. Each of the three hunky Conall brothers (Barclay, Magnus, and Fergus) have a surprising secret, and Noah makes a shocking revelation.

I am joyous and honored to join the other wonderful writers who post in this group as we share our gay mystery stories. So take your seat. The curtain is going up on steep cliffs, ancient turrets, stormy seas, misty moors, malfunctioning kilts, and murder!

DRAMA CASTLE (the seventh Nicky and Noah mystery)

a comedy/mystery/romance novel by JOE COSENTINO

http://mybook.to/DramaCastle

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/910555

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/books/1129964877?ean=2940155897439

Blurb:

Theatre professor Nicky Abbondanza is directing a historical film at a castle in Scotland, co-starring his spouse, theatre professor Noah Oliver, and their son Taavi. When historical accuracy disappears along with hunky men in kilts, Nicky and Noah will once again need to use their drama skills to figure out who is pitching residents of Conall Castle off the drawbridge and into the moat, before Nicky and Noah land in the dungeon. You will be applauding and shouting Bravo for Joe Cosentino’s fast-paced, side-splittingly funny, edge-of-your-seat entertaining seventh novel in this delightful series. Take your seats. The curtain is going up on steep cliffs, ancient turrets, stormy seas, misty moors, malfunctioning kilts, and murder!

Exclusive Excerpt:

Wearing a canary polo shirt that highlighted his olive-colored skin and black hair, Taavi looked adorable with his legs dangling off the high bed. “Grandma and I explored the castle.” His dimples appeared. “I found a secret passageway.”

“A sleuth, like your dads,” Dad said.

“And like your grandfather,” Mom added.

 Taavi wiped his palms on his sky-blue shorts. “I can’t wait to shoot my scenes.”

Noah smiled. “Will you steal them from me?”

“That’s the plan.” Taavi offered his father a hang loose sign and a huge grin.

Mom said, “Judy was very impressed with our little Taavi’s acting in that slasher film you all did last year.”

“As she should be,” Dad said as if he were Taavi’s agent.

“Judy said that little Dung’s chocolate coloring would show up well on film.”

“Too bad Tommy and Timmy aren’t in the movie business like our Nicky and Noah,” Dad said.

Mom and Dad laughed together triumphantly.

I noticed a gold necklace around Dad’s neck as it danced over his flabby chest. “I’ve never seen that before, Dad.”

He stuck out his already protruding stomach. “What, my sexy physique?” Dad winked at Noah. “I may be giving you a run for your money tonight, Noah.”

Noah’s scarlet cheeks turned crimson.

I walked over to Dad. “I mean your necklace.”

“He’s worn that thing around his neck since I met him,” Mom said.

Taking it in my hand, I admired the fine craftsmanship of the gold two-leaf clover.

“It’s really a four-leaf clover,” Dad explained, “but the other two leaves broke off.”

“Where did you get it?”

“In a little shop on a glen in a valley in the highlands of Scotland. A year before I met Mom, I visited the land of my ancestors to find my roots.”

 “While I was covering up mine with peroxide,” Mom said with a smile.

“But my ancestors didn’t come from a place like this.” Dad explained, “They were sheepherders.” The dairy farmer added, “Milking is in my blood.”

“So is high cholesterol from all the cheese he eats,” Mom said as if speaking about a death row criminal.

Dad patted his stomach. “I like food.”

“Me too, Grandpa.” Taavi patted his stomach too.

“Did you all eat dinner?” Noah asked with concern showing on his handsome face.

Mom nodded. “A sweet young waiter named Donal served us in the dining room.” She giggled like a young girl. “He paid extra attention to me.”

“Were you jealous?” I asked Dad.

He waved me away like a color guard on speed. “Donal was a nice-looking guy. But he reminded me of you and Noah, if you know what I mean.”

My father-in-law developed gaydar?

Taavi’s dark eyes glistened in delight. “We ate cock-a-doodle-doo soup, blood pudding, green fish, and bread for short people.”

As if a United Nations translator, Mom said, “Taavi means cock-a-leekie soup—”

Okay, it’s not what you’re thinking. It’s a soup with chicken, bacon, leeks, and spices.

Mom continued, “—black pudding—”

Get ready to be grossed out. It’s pork fat, pork blood, oatmeal, and oat and barley groats.

“—scallops with cabbage and green apple sauce, and shortbread.”

“I texted all my friends from school. I can’t believe we’re living in a real castle!”

Giveaway: Post a comment below about why you love men in kilts. The one that raises our kilt the most will win an Audible code for the Drama Queen audiobook, the first Nicky and Noah mystery, by Joe Cosentino, performed by Michael Gilboe.

Praise for the Nicky and Noah mysteries:

“Joe Cosentino has a unique and fabulous gift. His writing is flawless, and his use of farce, along with his convoluted plot-lines, will have you guessing until the very last page, which makes his books a joy to read. His books are worth their weight in gold, and if you haven’t discovered them yet you are in for a rare treat.” Divine Magazine

“a combination of Laurel and Hardy mixed with Hitchcock and Murder She Wrote…

Loaded with puns and one-liners…Right to the end, you are kept guessing, and the conclusion still has a surprise in store for you.” “the best modern Sherlock and Watson in books today…I highly recommend this book and the entire series, it’s a pure pleasure, full of fun and love, written with talent and brio…fabulous…brilliant” Optimumm Book Reviews

“adventure, mystery, and romance with every page….Funny, clever, and sweet….I can’t find anything not to love about this series….This read had me laughing and falling in love….Nicky and Noah are my favorite gay couple.” Urban Book Reviews

“For fans of Joe Cosentino’s hilarious mysteries, this is another vintage story with more cheeky asides and sub plots right left and centre….The story is fast paced, funny and sassy. The writing is very witty with lots of tongue-in-cheek humour….Highly recommended.” Boy Meets Boy Reviews

“This delightfully sudsy, colorful cast of characters would rival that of any daytime soap opera, and the character exchanges are rife with sass, wit and cagey sarcasm….As the pages turn quickly, the author keeps us hanging until the startling end.” Edge Media Network

“A laugh and a murder, done in the style we have all come to love….This had me from the first paragraph….Another wonderful story with characters you know and love!” Crystals Many Reviewers

“These two are so entertaining….Their tactics in finding clues and the crazy funny interactions between characters keeps the pages turning. For most of the book if I wasn’t laughing I was grinning.” Jo and Isa Love Books

“Superb fun from start to finish, for me this series gets stronger with every book and that’s saying something because the benchmark was set so very high with book 1.” Three Books Over the Rainbow

“The Nicky and Noah Mysteries series are perfect for fans of the Cozy Mystery sub-genre. They mix tongue-in-cheek humor, over-the-top characters, a wee bit of political commentary, and suspense into a sweet little mystery solved by Nicky and Noah, theatre professors for whom all the world’s a stage.” Prism Book Alliance

“This is one hilarious series with a heart and it just keeps getting better. I highly recommend them all, and please read them in the order they were written for full blown laugh out loud reading pleasure!” Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words

Bestselling author Joe Cosentino was voted Favorite LGBT Mystery, Humorous, and Contemporary Author of the Year by the readers of Divine Magazine for Drama Queen. He also wrote the other novels in the Nicky and Noah mystery series: Drama Muscle, Drama Cruise, Drama Luau, Drama Detective, Drama Fraternity, Drama Castle; the Dreamspinner Press novellas: In My Heart/An Infatuation & A Shooting Star, A Home for the Holidays, The Perfect Gift,The First Noel, The Naked Prince and Other Tales from Fairyland with Holiday Tales from Fairyland, the Cozzi Cove series: Cozzi Cove: Bouncing Back, Cozzi Cove: Moving Forward, Cozzi Cove: Stepping Out, Cozzi Cove: New Beginnings, Cozzi Cove: Happy Endings (NineStar Press);andthe Jana Lane mysteries: Paper Doll, Porcelain Doll, Satin Doll, China Doll, Rag Doll (The Wild Rose Press). He has appeared in principal acting roles in film, television, and theatre, opposite stars such as Bruce Willis, Rosie O’Donnell, Nathan Lane, Holland Taylor, and Jason Robards. Joe is currently Chair of the Department/Professor at a college in upstate New York, and he is happily married. Joe was voted 2nd Place Favorite LGBT Author of the Year in Divine Magazine’s Readers’ Choice Awards, and his books have received numerous Favorite Book of the Month Awards and Rainbow Award Honorable Mentions.

Web site: http://www.JoeCosentino.weebly.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/JoeCosentinoauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoeCosen

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4071647.Joe_Cosentino

Amazon: Author.to/JoeCosentino

GIVEAWAY: Post a comment below about why you love men in kilts. The one that raises our kilt the most will win an Audible code for the Drama Queen audiobook, the first Nicky and Noah mystery, by Joe Cosentino, performed by Michael Gilboe.

**Winner must have an active Audible.com account to receive**

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Exclusive Excerpt: Southern Most Murder by C.S. Poe

Blurb:

Aubrey Grant lives in the tropical paradise of Old Town, Key West, has a cute cottage, a sweet moped, and a great job managing the historical property of a former sea captain. With his soon-to-be-boyfriend, hotshot FBI agent Jun Tanaka, visiting for a little R&R, not even Aubrey’s narcolepsy can put a damper on their vacation plans.

But a skeleton in a closet of the Smith Family Historical Home throws a wrench into the works. Despite Aubrey and Jun’s attempts to enjoy some time together, the skeleton’s identity drags them into a mystery with origins over a century in the past. They uncover a tale of long-lost treasure, the pirate king it belonged to, and a modern-day murderer who will stop at nothing to find the hidden riches. If a killer on the loose isn’t enough to keep Aubrey out of the mess, it seems even the restless spirit of Captain Smith is warning him away.

The unlikely partnership of a special agent and historian may be exactly what it takes to crack this mystery wide-open and finally put an old Key West tragedy to rest. But while Aubrey tracks down the X that marks the spot, one wrong move could be his last.

Excerpt:

Burt Tillman was not too tickled to see Jun. Or me. In fact, he probably could have gone the whole day without even thinking of either of us.

“Agent Tanaka,” he said, offering a stiff handshake. “I am in the middle of a homicide. I hope you understand my time is precious.”

“I’ve no intention of taking you away from your case,” Jun replied. “It so happens that Mr. Grant and I ran into a few of Cassidy’s friends this morning and gathered a bit of information that might be of value to you.”

Tillman eyed Jun, glared at me, then nodded and turned to lead us down a hallway. We entered a large room that had several desks with plain-clothed officers sitting at them. Each had towering piles of papers spread across their workspace, and a phone seemed to always be ringing from somewhere. Tillman walked toward the back, grabbed two plastic chairs, and hauled them up in front of what I presumed was his desk before he sat behind it.

Jun and I both took a seat.

“So?” Tillman asked.

Jun took over this part, and I was only more than happy to let him. Keep this between lawmen, you know?

“We spoke with a few people down at Barnacles today. Curtis Leon, Peg Hart, and Josh Moore.”

Tillman nodded, rolling a pen between his thumb and index finger.

“Seems that Curtis was already aware of Cassidy’s death.”

“Yes, he was having breakfast with Glen Porter, Cassidy’s employer, when I went down to speak with Glen.”

“Were you aware they are amateur treasure hunters?”

“I vaguely knew,” Tillman replied. “I know Peg—she owns her own boat. I’ve heard a few stories about the four of them going out to search for sunken treasure.”

Jun leaned back in his chair, crossing his long legs and seeming completely at ease. “Peg mentioned a diary that Cassidy had, about Captain Rogers.”

Tillman narrowed his eyes. “I’m not familiar with this man.”

“He was captain of a merchant vessel from 1854 to 1871,” I piped up.

Tillman looked at me. “Let me guess. The skeleton is Rogers and he killed Cassidy?”

“I think the skeleton might actually be Smith,” I corrected. “Thanks, though.”

Jun cleared his throat.

I didn’t roll my eyes, but man, I came close to it. “Cassidy got the diary because it mentions Smith and One-Eyed Jack supposedly being one and the same, and I told you yesterday how hell-bent he was about proving me wrong. The point is, that diary was stolen a year ago from a museum in St. Augustine.”

“I suspect a man that’s stolen from at least one museum, with the intent of perhaps stealing from Aubrey’s,” Jun began, “likely has more than one hot item in his possession.”

Tillman looked down at his mass of paperwork, thoughtful. “We’ve been to his apartment. Nothing like an old diary was found.”

“I know an Agent Dixon in Miami who works with the Art Crime Team,” Jun stated. “I’m sure she would be more than happy to assist.”

Tillman sat back in his chair. “This St. Augustine museum would first need their local law enforcement to submit an entry to NSAF.”

Tillman knew more about FBI policies than I did. Check.

Jun smiled. “Of course. But I’m sure with a few phone calls, I can get the ball rolling, considering the situation down here. What do you say, Detective?”

Ha, ha, ha, checkmate.

Tillman frowned.

“I’m not looking to take over or interfere with your case,” Jun stated. “I’m only here for a week and half, and when I leave Aubrey, I want to sleep at night knowing that he’s not being harassed or in danger at his place of business. That’s all.”

Tillman looked between the two of us.

I nodded and offered a smile.

After a beat, Tillman let out a heavy sigh and shifted some of his papers around. He picked up a small evidence baggie that held a key fob. It was bright orange and seemed to have some sort of room number on it. “We found this in Cassidy’s apartment. It belongs to a unit at Store Yourself in New Town.” He offered it and Jun accepted.

“What’s the chance of getting a search warrant?” Jun asked, turning the fob around absently.

Tillman smiled this time and held up a form. “Just got it, twenty minutes ago. Cassidy has a record of theft. Appears he’s been obsessed with this pirate Jack guy most of his life.” He stood. “As a courtesy to you, Agent Tanaka, and because I’m not well versed in the diaries of merchant sailors from the 1800s… I’ll extend the offer of you being present while I serve this. Unofficially, of course.”

“Of course.” Jun stood, and they shook hands again. “I suppose we’ll bump into each other there. It just so happens that Aubrey is qualified to offer assistance regarding anything you might find in the unit.”

Tillman looked at me. “That he is,” he said tersely.

We’d followed Tillman from Stock Island to New Town and parked outside of Store Yourself about thirty minutes later. Jun turned the car off, leaned over me to unlock the glove compartment, and revealed a gun and holster.

“Whoa, you came to Florida packing?”

Jun looked at me briefly before grabbing it. “I don’t go anywhere without a service weapon.”

“Even on vacation?” Because I found that sort of… sad.

Jun didn’t respond, just put the shoulder holster on. He opened the door and said, “Would you grab the suit coat in the back seat?”

I partially climbed over the console to reach the folded G-man coat before getting out of the car. “You came prepared.”

Jun adjusted his weapon as he came toward me, took the coat, and hid the gun as he slid it over his shoulders.

“You think there’s something dangerous inside the unit?” I asked, looking up.

“I’d rather not take any chances. Stay behind and out of the way, okay?”

Tillman climbed out of his car beside us and removed the folded warrant from an inner pocket before leading the way.

“Regarding Josh Moore,” Jun said, the scuff of his shoes on the pavement echoing over his words. “Aubrey hired him to paint the first floor of the Smith Home. He finished that two weeks ago.”

“Is that so.”

“It might account for the broken window in the parlor,” Jun continued.

Tillman stopped and turned to face Jun.

“He’s similar in appearance to the description Aubrey gave of the second intruder.”

Watching Jun work Tillman was pretty awesome. I think his good-cop thing was making it difficult for Tillman to even be properly annoyed, since Jun was technically helping. Just, you know, sort of passive-aggressively.

“I don’t suppose he shared yesterday’s whereabouts with you?” Tillman asked.

“He did not.”

Tillman looked at me briefly before nodding and walking toward the business once more. “I’ll look into it.” He opened the front door, held it for us, then approached the counter. He flashed his badge at a disinterested woman.

“I’ve a search warrant, ma’am,” he said, sliding the form over. “Unit 513, belonging to a Lou Cassidy.”

She chewed her gum loudly, popping a bubble while glancing over the legal form—like anyone actually read that mumbo jumbo. “Fine with me,” she stated after a moment. “He’s a week late on payment. Will the police be paying that?”

Tillman just smiled. “Do you have bolt cutters?”

She sighed and got to her feet. “Yup. Head on through that door,” she said, indicating a door to our right. “Unit 513 is down the middle aisle on the left side. I’ll be there in a moment.”

“Appreciate it,” Tillman said, and I swore if he had a hat on, he would have tipped it.

Jerk never used his hat-tipping voice on me.

Then again, I had been sort of a sassy smartass with him the last few—er, all the meetings we’d had so far.

Jun opened the door leading to the units, holding it for Tillman and me before bringing up the rear. “I must admit,” he said quietly. “Curiosity is getting the best of me.”

“You and me both,” Tillman called. “Man’s apartment is a shrine to all things nautical. I can only guess as to what’ll be in here.” He stopped outside an orange door about four by four feet. He looked at me and Jun. “I’ll be disappointed if it’s Christmas decorations.”

The office door opened behind us and echoed loudly as it slammed shut. The woman from the counter was walking toward us with a hefty pair of bolt cutters. “Here you are, gentlemen,” she said, handing the tool over to Tillman. “Please don’t make a mess. I’ll be in the office if you need anything.”

Tillman thanked her and waited until she’d slammed the door again. He took the clippers to the combo lock on the door, quickly snapping it. He slipped it free and pocketed the lock pieces before setting the cutters down on the floor.

Jun took my arm and gently maneuvered me to stand behind him. He removed his gun and took a readied stance as Tillman yanked the door open.

The missing skeleton from yesterday came tumbling out, breaking as it smashed into the linoleum floor.

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More about author C.S. Poe

C.S. Poe is a Lambda Literary and EPIC award finalist author of gay mystery, romance, and paranormal books.
She is a reluctant mover and has called many places home in her lifetime. C.S. has lived in New York City, Key West, and Ibaraki, Japan, to name a few. She misses the cleanliness, convenience, and limited-edition gachapon of Japan, but she was never very good at riding bikes to get around.
She has an affinity for all things cute and colorful and a major weakness for toys. C.S. is an avid fan of coffee, reading, and cats. She’s rescued two cats—Milo and Kasper do their best on a daily basis to sidetrack her from work.
C.S. is a member of the International Thriller Writers organization.
Her debut novel, The Mystery of Nevermore, was published by DSP Publications, 2016.

Contacts for C.S. Poe

DREAMSPINNER PRESS: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/AuthorArcade/cs-poe
WEBSITE: http://www.cspoe.com
TUMBLR: http://cspoe.tumblr.com
BLOG: http://authorcspoe.blogspot.com
NEWSLETTER: https://www.subscribepage.com/cspoelanding

Exclusive Excerpt: The Cuban Who Paid Dearly (Daytona Beach Book 3) by Frank W. Butterfield

Blurb:

It’s Thursday morning, the 2nd of October in 1947, and Ronnie Grisham and his pal, Tom Jarrell, are now married… To women, of course…

And, for appearance’s sake and to get a much-needed break from work, Ronnie figures they really should go on a honeymoon.

So, the two couples board the southbound Champion for Miami. It’s all aboard for romance! But not in the way their fellow passengers would imagine, no doubt.

Once there, they get a chance to see Miss Doris Day, who is touring with Les Brown and his Band of Renown. And a good time is had by all!

But all good things must come to an end and, after dropping the gals off at the airport, the guys rent a car and hit the Overseas Highway to head down into the Florida Keys.

Just when it looks like Tom and Ronnie will finally get some time to themselves, a friend of theirs comes across a dead Cuban and is found holding the gun. He says he didn’t do it, but the State’s Attorney isn’t convinced…

Looks like it’s back to work for Daytona Beach’s most infamous lawyer and his private dick!

Excerpt:

The Blue Parrot was at the end of a little alley off Fleming Street. The only indication of the place was a blue electric light bulb over a white door with a blue parrot painted on the front. Ronnie was only able to find it because Tom had run into the jail and asked Claud where it was and then ran out with the address. Turned out that it was only a couple of blocks away.

Ronnie pulled open the door and was greeted with the sound of Perry Como singing, “When You Were Sweet Sixteen,” a song that Ronnie had mixed feelings about. He liked the man’s voice and liked to listen to his singing on The Chesterfield Supper Club program on the radio. His voice was smooth and could, at times, get him in the mood. But the song reminded Ronnie of his first meeting Tom because Tom was 16 at the time they met. That had always been a melancholy memory. But, as he moved into the dimly lit bar, he grinned as he realized it wasn’t melancholy anymore. There was no doubt the two were in love with each other and Ronnie was more in love with Tom than ever.

Grinning like a goddam fool, Ronnie walked up to the bar. Looking around, he realized he was only one of four people in the place. A couple, two gals, were sitting in the back at a booth, side by side, and seemed to be whispering sweet nothings to each other.

The other person was the man behind the bar. He was about 5’9″ or so and had a head full of thick graying blond hair that was slicked back with a heavy dose of pomade. He had a friendly expression and bright blue eyes. Wearing a starched white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, open at the neck, and under a bright blue apron, the man walked over. “Are you one of us?” asked the man as he looked up at Ronnie.

With a grin, Ronnie replied, “If you’re wonderin’ whether I prefer Joes over Janes, I do.”

“Welcome, then. What’ll you have?”

“Jax.”

“Comin’ right up.” The man’s voice had a slight Irish accent to it.

Ronnie parked himself at the bar and looked around. It was a small place but friendly, clean, and inviting. He’d been to a similar kind of spot a few weeks earlier in West Palm Beach, but it wasn’t nearly as clean or as welcoming. It had been more like a spot to be ashamed of.

The man placed a bottle of Jax in front of him along with a bowl of peanuts. “Where you in from?”

“Daytona Beach,” replied Ronnie as he took a drink of the cold brew.

“Nice place up there. Love that flat beach where you can have a nice stroll. Dodging the cars can be a little tricky, though,” he added with a smile.

“I drive up and down there all the time, but I try to keep my eyes out for any tourists who don’t realize the beach is a road.”

“Good man. What brings you to Key West?”

“Well,” said Ronnie as he picked up a couple of peanuts, “I’m down here with my guy.”

“Lucky man, he is.”

“I don’t know about that.” He popped the peanuts in his mouth and then asked, “Are you Johnny Donahue?”

“The one and the only.”

Ronnie extended his hand across the bar. “My name is Ronnie Grisham.”

“Call me Johnny,” said the man as he shook with a wink.

“And I’m Ronnie.” He leaned in. “Claud Wallace asked me to come over and talk to you about Benny Ibanez.”

Johnny’s smile faded. “I see.”

“What can you tell me about Benny?”

Screwing up his mouth, Johnny looked hard at Ronnie. “And what might your interest be in the matter?”

“I’m trying to find whoever it was who really killed Benny.”

Author Frank W. Butterfield:

Frank W Butterfield

Frank W. Butterfield is the Amazon best-selling author of over 20 books and counting in the Nick Williams Mystery series, stories about Nick & Carter, a private dick and a fireman who live and love in San Francisco.

To learn more about Frank W. Butterfield’s novels, Nick & Carter and their ongoing adventures, click here for his website.

Exclusive Excerpt: The Ornamental Hermit by Olivier Bosman

A D.S. Billings Victorian Mystery – Book 1

“Ah, Doctor Smith,” the shopkeeper said as Billings walked tentatively into the dimly lit shop. “How are you? So nice to see you again.”

“I am well, thank you.” Billings’ face was tense and his hands were trembling. He clenched his fist behind his back and gritted his teeth. He instantly regretted entering the shop. “I believe you have a new series in,” he asked.

“I do indeed, I do indeed. I have it right here.” The shopkeeper crouched down and took a large brown paper envelope from beneath the counter. He was a short corpulent man with dark, oily skin. Of Arab descent, perhaps. Or maybe Greek. He called himself Al Bull, but Billings knew that that wasn’t his real name. He smiled sleazily, almost mockingly, as he pulled a series of cabinet cards out of the envelope and displayed them one by one on the counter. They were albumen photographs of young, nude men, practising various sports in a forest meadow. There was one of a naked discus thrower looking like a Greek statue. There was one of two men wrestling by a river, and one of a naked man leaning against a tree holding a javelin. Billings could feel the blood rush to his face as he looked at the photographs.

“They’re from a German sports camp,” the shopkeeper said. “They have the young men exercise in the nude, in keeping with the custom of the original Greek Olympics.”

Billings looked away, desperate to conceal his blushing. “These will do. Thank you,” he said, swallowing.

“I thought they would.” The shopkeeper smiled as he collected the pictures and pushed them back into the envelope. “Are the anatomical classes going well, Doctor Smith?”

“Very well, thank you.”

“I’m sure these photographs will be of great benefit to your students.”

“I’m sure they will. How much are they, please?”

“Seven and sixpence, please.”

Billings ruffled in his pockets for the money.

“I also have a series of photographs from the South Seas,” the shopkeeper continued, “of very young boys in provocative poses. Would that perhaps be of interest to your anatomy students?”

“No, thank you. Just these will do.” Billings lay the money on the counter and picked up the envelope. He tried sticking it into the inside pocket of his great coat, but it wouldn’t fit. He folded the envelope and tried again, but still it was too big.

The shopkeeper watched with an amused glint in his eye as a flustered and harried Billings continued to struggle with the envelope. “You’ll damage the pictures like that,” he said.

Billings didn’t reply and tried one more fold.

“Is it just muscle structures your students are interested in?” the shopkeeper asked after Billings finally succeeded in putting the envelope away. “Or do they like young, lithe physiques as well? Because if so, I have some pictures in the back room which might interest you.”

“No, thank you, Mr Bull. I’m in a hurry.”

“Oh, it won’t take long, Doctor Smith. My assistant Charlie will gladly show you. You haven’t met Charlie yet, have you? He is a very pleasant young man. I am sure you’ll like him – Charlie!”

A young man pulled open the black curtains which divided the shop from the storage room and moved to stand behind the counter next to the shopkeeper. He had a gleeful and cocksure expression in his hazel-green eyes. His thick, dark blond hair was ragged and uncombed (it was so thick, it was practically uncombable). His shirt was only half-tucked into his trousers and the top buttons were undone, revealing pale flesh and a few curly chest hairs. Billings, who had been desperate to turn his back on the shopkeeper and rush out of the shop, raised his head to look at him and was instantly infatuated. Everything about the young man displayed confidence and carelessness, the exact qualities Billings never possessed, and he was fascinated.

“Charlie, this is Doctor Smith,” the shopkeeper said. “Doctor Smith is an expert in anatomy. Doctor Smith, this is Charlie,” he now pointed to his assistant, “who, as you can see, has a very lovely anatomy.” He laughed. And Charlie laughed along with him. But Billings was not amused and looked away embarrassed. “Go on, Doctor Smith,” the shopkeeper continued. “Let Charlie show you what he’s got. It won’t take long, but I’m sure it’ll be to your satisfaction. Ain’t that right, Charlie?”

“That’s right, Mr Bull,” Charlie answered with that nasal Cockney twang which Billings always found so ugly, but which now sounded so lovely coming from Charlie’s lips.

There is an intricate link between delusion and depravity, Billings thought afterwards. The one always precedes the other. He’d had a deluded notion that it was better to love and lose than never to love at all; that a man needed to be touched and held regularly in order to function properly; that all men were entitled to some carnal satisfaction, regardless of their preference or inclination. These deluded notions had passed through his mind shortly before committing the act of depravity which was to follow.

He followed Charlie into the back room. The room was packed with crates and boxes. Billings stood in the middle of the room rigidly, pale and nervous, while Charlie closed the black curtain and turned around to face him.

“Well then, Doctor Smith,” he said, looking at Billings with that cheeky smile. “What do you want to do?”

“Do?” Billings was trembling and sweating. “I thought you were going to show me some more pictures?”

“Pictures?” he laughed. “What do you wanna see pictures for, if you can have the real thing? It’s a bob for a rub, a shilling and sixpence for a bagpipe, and a half crown if you want the full story. But we’d have to do that somewhere more discreet. Mr Bull has a room with a bed available upstairs which you can rent for a shilling. So what will it be, then?”

“I… um…”

“You’re in a hurry, ain’t ya? So I’ll give you a bagpipe. It won’t take long. You got the money on ya?”

Billings rummaged in his pocket and took out some coins to show Charlie.

“You can pay Mr Bull on your way out. Now, come and stand by the light.” Charlie walked towards the wall opposite the window and turned the key on the gas lamp. Billings remained standing on the spot, unsurely, putting the coins back in his pocket. Charlie looked back at him and frowned. “Well, come on then.”

“I… um… I think I’d rather look at the pictures,” Billings said.

Charlie laughed. “Will you stop going on about the pictures. Can’t you see I’m offering you the real thing? Now come here.”

Billings approached him reluctantly. Charlie grabbed the lapels of Billings’s greatcoat and pulled him towards him, then proceeded to cover his face and neck with kisses. Billings felt his heart pound as Charlie’s hands reached into his greatcoat and grabbed hold of his chest. He closed his eyes and clenched his fists as Charlie proceeded to slide his hand down towards his crotch. Goosebumps rose all over his body and shudders rushed through him like electric current when Charlie knelt down before him and started unbuttoning his trousers. He took a deep breath and flung his head back when suddenly, through his closed eyelids, he saw a flash of light which woke him from his erotic trance.

“What was that?” he said, pushing Charlie’s fumbling fingers away from his trouser buttons.

Charlie looked up and frowned. “What?”

“There was a flash of light.”

“I didn’t see nothing.”

Billings’s heart was still pounding, but this time with alarm, rather than titillation. “There was a light,” he said as he rushed towards the window and opened the shutter. “I clearly saw a light.”

“It was probably lightning.” Charlie was still on his knees by the gas lamp.

“It can’t have been lightning. It’s not raining.”

Billings stuck his head out of the window and looked up and down the narrow alleyway which led from the shop’s back entrance to Praed Street. There was nothing there other than a few empty crates which had been stacked against the wall.

“It must’ve been dry lightning, Doctor Smith. Nothing to worry about. Now, come over here and let me finish giving you your bagpipe. I ain’t even started yet.”

Billings turned to look back at Charlie, kneeling on the cold brick floor. The gaslight flooded his head and Billings could see the dirt on the back of his neck and his shirt collar. He also saw black specks crawling through his unruly hair. Was it lice? Charlie suddenly didn’t look so appealing anymore. That cheeky, cocksure smile was replaced by a bored and impatient frown and Billings felt dirty and sleazy. The thought of that dirty boy’s hands all over him suddenly made his whole body itch. How could he have allowed himself to sink to this?

“I had better go,” he said, buttoning up his trousers and tucking in his shirt.

“Ain’t you gonna let me finish giving you your bagpipe?”

“I’m sorry. I have to go.”

“You are still gonna pay me ain’t ya?”

Billings dug into his pocket and took out some coins. “I have two shillings,” he said and held out the coins to Charlie.

“You gotta pay Mr Bull at the counter.”

“Why don’t you take them off me?”

“I don’t know, Doctor Smith,” Charlie said hesitantly. “I ain’t supposed to. You gotta pay Mr Bull at the counter.”

Billings approached him, grabbed his hand and placed the two shillings in it. “Keep the money for yourself.” He closed Charlie’s fingers over the coins. “I’ll tell Mr Bull that I changed my mind and that nothing happened. Which is the truth.” He then turned his back on Charlie, cut through the black drapes and walked back into the shop.

“Finished already?” the shopkeeper asked, confused.

“I have to go, Mr Bull.”

 Billings rushed passed him and out of the shop. As he crossed the corner into Edgware Road, he bumped into a man carrying a heavy black leather case over his shoulder, knocking the man’s hat off his head.

“Oh, I do apologise,” Billings said while the man crouched down to pick up his hat.

The man lifted his head and looked at him. Then a broad smile appeared on his face. “You again!” It was Jeremiah Rook. “What a coincidence!”

Billings looked at him suspiciously. Was it really a coincidence that he should bump into the reporter twice on the same day, in two different towns?

“You should watch where you’re going, Mr Billings,” the reporter continued. “You nearly made me drop my equipment.”

Billings looked at the leather case hanging from the reporter’s shoulder and wondered what it contained.

“’Ere, you’re not shadowing me, are ya?” the reporter asked with a cheeky smile.

“I might ask you the same question?” Billings replied tersely.

“Why would I shadow you? Have you been doing something you shouldn’t have?” There was a mocking glint in the reporter’s eyes as he asked this, and Billings’s attention was again drawn to the suspicious case on the reporter’s shoulder.

“I expect it’s just a coincidence, then,” Billings concluded. “We must’ve taken the same train back from Oxford and we must both be on our way home.”

“I expect that must be the case.”

“Well, good day to you then, Mr Rook.” Billings  tipped his hat at him. “I’d best be on my way.”

“Good day to you, Mr Billings.”

When he got back home, Billings rushed straight to his room, took the envelope out of his pocket, grabbed a box of matches from the windowsill, crouched down before the fireplace and set fire to it and its contents. Watching the cindered remains disappearing down the roster, he decided he’d take a generous dose of morphine that night. He was determined to sleep soundly. He’d sleep so soundly that, when he’d wake up the following morning, it would be as if this whole day had never occurred. As if the day had just been a bad dream. Like one of those morphine-induced nightmares he sometimes had. He hadn’t given in to temptation. He hadn’t soiled his consciousness. He hadn’t plotted to maltreat another fellow human being. He hadn’t risked jeopardizing his career. It had all been a bad dream, that’s all. A bad, disturbing dream, the likes of which he’d had many times before.

Blurb:

‘The Ornamental Hermit’ is a thrilling mystery which leads the reader on a colourful journey into Victorian England.’

The year is 1890. Detective Sergeant John Billings is a Quaker. He sees God in everyone and takes other people’s suffering to heart. He is an honest and hard working man who has risen swiftly through the ranks to become one of Scotland Yard’s youngest detectives. But in his private life he struggles with the demons of loneliness, morphine addiction and homosexuality.

More about author Olivier Bosman:

Born to Dutch parents and raised in Colombia and England, I am a rootless wanderer with itchy feet. I’ve spent the last few years living and working in The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Sudan and Bulgaria, but I have now finally settled down among the olive groves of Andalucia. 

For updates on my latest projects and the occasional freebie, please join my mailing list.

www.olivierbosman.com

Excerpt & FREE Giveaway: Pretty Boy Dead by Jon Michaelsen

Excerpt: Pretty Boy Dead (a Kendall Parker Mystery)

The call came through Sergeant Kendall Parker’s cell during his regular morning coffee run to the Landmark diner on Cheshire Bridge Road. Moments later, the detective slapped a blue light on the roof of his silver-blue cruiser and sped through the Morningside neighborhood, an overpriced in-town section on the northern fringes of the city. He turned off Cheshire Bridge Road to Piedmont and punched the accelerator after maneuvering around a few startled drivers. The traffic proved thicker than he’d expected this morning, forcing him to jockey along Piedmont Avenue and zigzag through the southbound lanes. The call had directed him to Piedmont Park, a popular one hundred and sixty-eight-acre triangle of land in the heart of Midtown, originally named for its crop-producing milieu connecting downtown and the tony Buckhead community lying northeast of the city. A body found in a runoff ditch at the park’s southernmost corner revealed no identification or apparent cause of death. The male victim had likely washed downstream during last night’s heavy spring ran.

Turning east on Monroe, Parker spotted a pair of blue and whites angled on 10th Street across from Grady High School’s new football and track field. Early rising joggers sprinkled the gravel running track that circled the perimeter of the field, several gawking at the flashing lights invading their area.

The Criminal Investigation Division dispatched at least three investigators to the scene of every death in the city: two from Homicide and another from either Sex Crimes or the Robbery unit. CID personnel received their orders from the homicide detective on call even though the homicide sergeant ultimately ran the investigation. Sgt. Kendall Parker led the charge today. Most referred to him by last name only. Parker was a major-crimes investigator for the department, CID, his rank Master Sergeant, a ten-year veteran with APD, the last six with the Homicide Squad.

Parker ran two wheels of his car over the curb and killed the motor, extricating his linebacker frame from the vehicle and striding across the grassy plane toward the dark blue uniform standing at the perimeter of a paved walking trail. He flashed his shield to a beat cop standing guard at the scene, who pointed him in the direction of the body without introduction.

Head down to protect his face from the assault of thorns, he trudged through a thicket of overgrowth and underbrush, the branches snatching at his trousers and poking through the fabric, nicking his flesh. He emerged at the crest of a wide drainage ditch. Looking out, he noticed that the storm basin sliced through the southeastern edge of the park and vanished through a giant steel cylinder set beneath 10th Street. He came upon a second cop sitting on the angled concrete about thirty yards from the body, and revealed his badge again.

“Anyone touched the body?”

“No sir,” the man called, shielding his eyes from the bright sun with an upraised arm and stood to meet the sergeant. “Ain’t let nobody down there, sir,” he said, jutting his chin toward the corpse below. “Waitin’ for the MPO.” He followed along, but became alarmed when Parker did not stop. “Hey, you can’t go down there.”

The sergeant reached the precipice of the concrete gully. A body lay tangled in a web of branches and debris, face up in a flow of shallow water. The stiff wore a type of dark overcoat, raincoat, or canvas outerwear. A strong odor, often associated with a bloated cadaver, wafted in the breeze. Parker squatted, angled his six–foot four-inch frame to make the steep trek into the ditch, and walked the edge of water this side of the cadaver, careful not to contaminate the scene.

“Ignore me,” Parker called over his shoulder. “I won’t touch a thing,” he said, cursing the cop under his breath. Damn rookie.

The officer’s face glowed red. He perched himself in a spot above the basin, jotting the detective’s name and badge number in his spiral notepad while, no doubt, awaiting his supervisor.

The detective pushed mirrored shades over his head of thick, dark curls, his brown eyes sweeping the area. He withdrew a pocket notepad—as much a part of him as the shield he wore clipped on his belt—and noted the time, location, and weather conditions. Surveying the area, he sketched out the scene while completing a spiral search, working his way toward the remains. A crime scene crew would trudge the same route when they arrived to videotape the scene, but Parker needed his own notes for later recall.

“Call came in at 6:42 a.m.,” a voice said from behind the sergeant.

Parker scowled and glanced over his shoulder, recognizing Timothy Brooks, an overzealous rookie detective recently assigned to the squad.

Brooks clambered into the gully, slipping and sliding on his backside until the heels of his big wingtips caught hold at the bottom of the ditch but not before his right foot landed in the water.

“Watch it,” Parker pointed and snapped. “You’ll fuck up the scene.”

“Sorry.” Brooks stepped back shaking water from his shoe. “Homeless man spotted the body at first light.” He continued without missing a beat and brushed the seat of his pressed khakis. “Perelli’s taking his statement up near the toilet-house. Dispatch traced the call to the emergency phone up there.”

Brooks sported a wide, Cheshire cat grin as he approached his new boss and stopped several feet from the body, tucking both hands in the flat-front pockets of his trousers. The beat cop resting on the embankment ventured forward.

Path victim took to Piedmont Park in Atlanta

Parker shook his head and waved his arms at both of them. “Get the hell back.”

Brooks obliged, retracing his steps double-time and shuffling the objecting officer back up the embankment. The cop shouted expletives indecipherable to Parker as he turned his attention back to the cadaver. Brooks had to learn his preference for spending a few minutes alone at a fresh crime scene, so best start now. Parker viewed the precious time alone a ritual of sorts, a rite of passage earned by years of long hours spent investigating the deaths of others. He’d be chastised by his commanding officer later.

A body commanded the heart of any homicide. Parker’s badge required him to confront the remains, regardless of circumstance or condition. Years of experience had taught him emotional detachment was the key to any successful investigation and although that theory may work for some, deep down inside he knew better. Soon, he’d relinquish a piece of his soul to this abandoned corpse, as with every other that followed. Truth be told, he died a little death at the beginning of every homicide investigation.

A cool breeze drifted through the basin and eased the queasiness in his gut. He popped a handful of antacids in his mouth and slipped a pair of latex gloves on before kneeling over the sunbaked cadaver. Clicking on the handheld recorder that he carried in his pocket, he described the body in detail. “Male, Caucasian, late teens-early twenties, approximately 5’10, one-hundred seventy to eighty pounds. Dark hair trimmed close, and no obvious signs of trauma. Clothes appear expensive and not threadbare, not the mark of a vagrant or a street kid,” he said. He swallowed a build-up of phlegm at the back of his throat. The stale, decaying odor skimming the surface of trickling water in the gully was stifling. He continued moving his eyes in a grid pattern over the discovery.

Parker avoided looking at the blanched face, the cloudy blue eyes, and bloated skin of the body. He used a pen from his chest pocket to probe the collar of the victim’s overcoat, lifting the damp fabric of the shirt beneath. A thick, gold chain surrounded the puffy neck, herringbone links wedged into the skin sparkling in the bright sunlight. In the murkiness to his left, a large dial, chrome-banded watch clung to a swollen wrist. The awkward angle of the arm displayed the crystal of the timepiece, cracked and filled with water, time frozen at a quarter past one, perhaps a clue to time of death. The right hand of the victim held a dark leather glove.

Leaning over the body for closer inspection, Parker speculated how the kid might have ended up like this, a technique he often used to get inside the victim’s head, sifting through pieces of the scene and condition of the body to connect the dots. These days, nothing in his line of work appeared simple and straightforward. Days, perhaps weeks, would pass before he would ferret out the reason behind the young man’s death, if ever.

The smell of raw sewage tickled the hairs in his nostrils as he studied the body. Despite the scripts churned out of Hollywood like a carnival music machine, cops never became used to seeing such gore, the sickly-sweet scent of rotting flesh, vicious crimes against another human being. The carnage worked to further harden their hearts from life’s other assaults and question the existence of faith, forcing the soul into tolerance and acceptance. The detective displayed impenetrable tolerance, but acceptance? Never. It came with the territory.

Parker stared at the corpse, seeing not the man lying before him, but the haunting image of another. The obsession was never far from his mind, clouding his thoughts and perhaps his judgment. It was an effigy of a young man taller and wider-shouldered than the one lying flat in the stream of water, an imagined reflection sinking to the depths of much deeper water no amount of scotch could erase. The urge to reach out and grasp the phantasm in his mind’s eye passed as a prickly chill nipped the back of his neck and reminded him that he had a job to do.

He called out for Brooks to join him.

The rookie bounded down the slope on cue.

“Have you called the M.E.?”

Brooks nodded in bobble-head speed.

“So, where the fuck is she?”

Parker stood after finding no identification on the body. A reflection caught the corner of his eye as he turned to walk away. Shifting his feet to the outer perimeter of the corpse, careful not to disturb the zone, he reached over a mound of debris and lifted the edge of a waterlogged matchbook with the tip of his pen. He recognized the name embellished across the silvery cardboard. It belonged to a small neighborhood bar up the road and across from the park.

“Get some men to search the grounds for evidence,” Parker said, leaving the matchbook where he found it. “See if you can locate the missing glove…and a cell phone.”

“Cell phone, sir?” Brooks asked.

“The victim’s cell. Everyone has a cell phone these days, and it ain’t on the body.”

Parker glanced back at the dead man, a moment of antipathy passing through his core before turning away, the lasting image taking its place among countless others extolled in his memory. “Put in another call for the ME.”

The sergeant ripped off the latex gloves and stuffed them in the pocket of his coat.


Piedmont Park near where victim found

Blurb:

A murdered male stripper.

A missing go-go dancer.

When the mangled body of a young gay man is discovered in a popular Atlanta park, advocacy groups converge on City Hall demanding justice. Media are quick to pin the brutal homicide on a drug-addicted, homeless teen. Atlanta Detective Sgt. Kendall Parker isn’t so convinced, even after the suspect assaults his homicide partner with a deadly weapon. But the investigation takes a disastrous turn, and a suspect in custody ends up dead. 

It becomes a race against time for the veteran detective to solve the apparent gay-bashing, but when a tenacious reporter threatens to expose a police cover-up, Parker is forced to make an impossible choice: stand firm for justice, or betray the brotherhood in blue. 

The odds against him, Parker will need to rely on his keen instinct and experience as a streetwise cop to catch a brutal killer. Yet success often comes at a price, and for Parker, it may mean having to reveal his most closely guarded secret.

WIN FREE e-book or audio copy of PRETTY BOY DEAD – winner’s choice

ENTER drawing by clicking on the Rafflecopter link below. The winner can chose format: Kindle (mobi), e-pub or .pdf. (**some countries/locations may not be able to receive e-mail delivery**).

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Author Jon Michaelsen

Jon Michaelsen is a writer of Gay fiction & Speculative fiction, most with elements of mystery and suspense/thriller.

Born near the banks of the Chattahoochee River in Southwest Georgia, at ten he moved with his family to Atlanta, where he has remained. With more time to focus on writing after retiring from a corporate career of twenty-five years, he began publishing short-fiction for a few years before debuting his first novel, Pretty Boy Dead, which earned a Lambda Literary Finalist gold seal for Best Gay Mystery.

He continues to publish both short fiction and long fiction, while drafting his second novel in the Kendall Parker Mystery series, The Deadwood Murders, which is scheduled for publication in Spring 2019.

He lives with his husband of 32 years, and two monstrous terriers.

Contact him at: Michaelsen.jon@gmail.com

On the Web:

http://www.jonmichaelsen.com
http://www.facebook/jonmichaelsen

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