Excerpts from The Pride Trilogy: three Kyle Callahan Mysteries by Mark McNease
The Pride Trilogy consists of three of the existing five Kyle Callahan Mysteries: Murder at Pride Lodge, Pride and Perilous, and Death by Pride. They were written in that order, with a break between the second and third to write Death in the Headlights featuring lesbian Detective Linda from the series. She and Kyle become partners in crime solving and she’s in all the books (soon to have her own in 2016!).
My intention when I created the series was to write one book featuring older characters, centered on a male couple modeled after myself and my now-husband Frank. As the publisher and editor for a website for over-50 LGBTQ people, lgbtSr.org, I wanted to write a book with and for people who were my own age. If the first book sold, I told myself, I would write a second. It did, and here we are five books later.
Here are short synopses of the three books making up the Trilogy, followed by single, selected excerpts from them. It seemed a better choice than just providing the first chapters. I hope you enjoy them!
Who killed Teddy the handyman – if anyone killed him at all? Was it Sid, one of the new owners of Pride Lodge whose past gets darker the closer you look? Was it the woman whose name was once Emily, when she witnessed the murder of her parents in a burglary gone bad, and who has waited thirty years for vengeance? Was it young Happy Corcoran, promoted to bartender only to vanish three days before Teddy was found dead at the bottom of the empty pool? Find out as Kyle Callahan refuses to believe it was an accident, doggedly pursues the truth in his friend’s death and does his best not to join him. Kyle and his life partner Danny Durban live in New York City, where murder never seems to be more than a subway stop away. In this first story, they head to Pride Lodge, their favorite getaway from the City, over what they expect to be a festive Halloween weekend. What they find instead is a web of murder, deceit, and revenge served cold as a knife blade.
The Katherine Pride Gallery is the center of high art and low death in Pride and Perilous, book II of the Pride Trilogy and the second of the Kyle Callahan Mysteries. Kyle, an amateur photographer, is about to have his first exhibit at the gallery, in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. As time ticks away, bodies begin to fall and Kyle realizes somebody wants this gallery closed forever. Join the chase as Kyle and his partner Danny Durban reunite with Detective Linda Sikorsky from the New Hope, PA, police force. They met solving the murders at Pride Lodge, and Linda has come to town for Kyle’s opening, only to find herself joining forces with him again to capture a killer … before he captures them.
The Pride Trilogy concludes with ‘Death by Pride.’ It’s Gay Pride weekend, the most festive weekend of the year in New York City. Hundreds of thousands of partygoers arrive to show the world how to have a good time. Stalking the party is the most successful serial killer the city has ever seen. He claims his victims in threes and has just begun his newest spree. Detective Linda Sikorsky comes to town to visit Kyle Callahan and his husband Danny Durban. It’s her first Pride Parade and may well be her last. Harmless fun turns to terror in a frantic effort to stop the killer once the first body floats to the river’s edge. This time it’s personal, and this time one of them might not make it out alive.
Murder at Pride Lodge – An Excerpt
Sam Tatum was found flat on his back in a parking garage three blocks from the Glendale Galleria at three o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon. Had it started raining an hour later he would have parked on the street and died in a puddle, his face wet with drizzle and his eyes staring up, unblinking, as rain flushed the life from them. The garage had been fate’s one courtesy, saving him the embarrassment of dying even more publicly than he did, insofar as corpses can be embarrassed. It was an ignominious death. While he’d expected to die from one too many lines of cocaine up his old man’s nose, or murdered, even, in a fit of pique by one of the hustlers he’d been too fond of for too many years, ending his life on the concrete floor of a parking garage, his head in an oil stain, was too seedy even for Sam. Had he been able to think once he was dead, he would have found it a tawdry end to a tawdry life and been glad it was over.
The woman who found him, walking with her 12-year-old daughter to their newly purchased Prius parked three cars to the left of Sam’s Camry, had worked as a nurse before marrying well and was familiar enough with dead bodies to make the call. The poor guy was old, out of shape, uncommonly pale, and obviously lived an unhealthy life. He was lucky to make it this far, she thought, more disturbed that her child had seen a corpse than that he was actually dead. She didn’t know him, what was it to her? Mostly it was an inconvenience, since she had the decency to call an ambulance, knowing it was much too late to save the poor slob, and stay around to speak to the police. She’d considered making it an anonymous 911 call, since her daughter’s ballet class started at 3:30 and this would mean missing it for sure. But something in her, that old nurse calling, that instinct to do the right thing, made her give her name and location and wait patiently for the paramedics who would try to resuscitate a man she knew was dead. His eyes were open, for godsake, and what life had been in them had slipped away some time ago. Anyone could see that.
She’d told her daughter Kelly to get into the car the moment she saw the man’s feet come into view. Kelly, being a precocious, ballet-class-taking 12-year-old, wanted the full view and instead of doing what she was told rushed around ahead of her mother to get a good look. She had never seen a dead body before and she could tell by her mother’s lack of urgency that the man was probably beyond help. After an inappropriate but predictable, “Cool!” she obeyed her mother and skipped ahead to their car. Once inside, she tweeted that she and her mother had found a dead guy, and waited for her friends’ texts to start flooding in.
Thus it was that someone on the other side of the country who happened to read DeathWatchLA took notice and knew that the email he’d gotten from Sam two weeks earlier was not the panic of a man who had used too many drugs and bought too many young men. Sam Tatum was dead. He had not been paranoid, but convinced someone was after them, and he had been right. Three months earlier there had been another death, a man named Frank Grandy, this one in Detroit. Neither of them had spoken to Frank in years, and it was only when Frank left Sam $2000 in his will as a very belated repayment of a loan, that Sam knew their old partner in crime was dead. No suspects had been named, no one identified, but the report mentioned an antique pocket watch Frank was selling on an internet auction site. The watch case was there, but the watch was gone. Robbery, they assumed, but the investigation had gone nowhere. That was what rang the alarm bell for Sam, the watch. He was surprised Frank had kept it all these years, but not surprised it had led to his death. The past, it seems, had been waiting patiently to find them, and it had.
The two deaths spoke not of coincidence, but of a plan, with a planner and only one target left. The DeathWatchLA reader logged off his computer, swiveled around in his desk chair and cheerfully took a cup of coffee from his partner, smiling as if nothing had changed and they were simply beginning another gorgeous day. Time to get started.
Pride and Perilous – An Excerpt
It had been five years at least since Devin had worried about being followed. That’s how long he had been living as Devin 24/7. Denise Ellerton had ceased to exist – officially, legally, physically, psychologically, and every other way in which each person functions in the world. For Devin, she had ceased existing long before that, when he had realized as a teenager that he was not like other girls; that the simple reality of pronouns was different for him, as he thought of himself as “he” while everyone else insisted on calling him “she.” Tom-boyish Denise, odd Denise, rough-and-tumble Denise. He had wanted to correct them then, and even younger, as early as the third grade. “I’m not a girl,” he had wanted to say, but it wasn’t until he was in college that he fully understood what was going on with him, and when he finally had the distance from his family to do something about it.
The sensation of being shadowed down a dark street was one of those things that belonged to Denise, to women. Devin had long been aware of the differences in experiences men had from women; to suggest there were no differences was to choose denial over reality. There were experiences unique to men, and experiences unique to women, as well as experiences unique to those who did not fit readily into either. Devin had become a man in every way possible. The transition had been made, the journey completed, and not since before it had he worried about being followed down his own Brooklyn street, late on a rainy Friday night. There was something different about this, too. It wasn’t random, as if he’d crossed paths with the wrong person in an accident of fate, as so many people did who found themselves the victims of crimes of opportunity. Devin had the very distinct and unsettling feeling that the man coming up slowly behind him had been there for awhile, had followed him off the R train, along the platform, up the stairs, and now, six blocks later, nearly to his apartment on Prospect Avenue.
Devin was tall at five-eight, and worked out religiously at the local New York Athletic Club. He’d had a trainer for two years and always believed he could handle himself in a tight situation. Not that it happened often: he didn’t drink, didn’t stay out late unless he had a showing of his artwork or was attending one of a friend’s exhibits; he hadn’t dated in three years, and he was a night person, meaning he worked at night in his studio apartment and made every effort to be home by 7:00 pm, when he would start his routine of coffee-fueled creativity, putting together his latest collage or designing a multi-medium piece that he would then spend the next two or three weeks bringing to life.
He was an attractive man, too, or so he’d been told enough times to believe. His natural height was complimented by a thin frame, short black hair he gelled back, a high, wide, forehead, moist brown eyes that had never been bothered by glasses, a thin but ready smile, and a nose that had once been broken in a fall, although he told everyone it had been a boxing match. It was the one lie he allowed himself. He just liked the idea of having a nose broken by a fist in a boxing glove. And it made the person who had once been Denise all but unrecognizable.
He’d stayed out later then usual tonight and had been cursing his lapse in discipline when he first realized someone was behind him. This stretch of Prospect Avenue, unlike nearly all streets in neighboring Manhattan, was sparsely populated at night and the presence of other people was noticeable, especially other people who were shadowing you. He’d become aware of the man behind him not long after coming up the subway stairs but had thought nothing of it at the time. Then, a block later, he could hear the footsteps, as if he were in some B-movie thriller and a stalker was shortening the distance between then. Now, four blocks from the subway and just one from his apartment building, he became convinced he was the object of the man’s attention. Had it not been so worrying it would have been interesting: why would a strange man be following a reclusive artist down a deserted Brooklyn street on a rainy Friday night? He decided to ask the question directly. He adjusted his umbrella, with its caved-in side to his back, letting rain trickle down and soak his jacket, and he turned around to get a look at the man he now knew was his pursuer.
As Devin turned to face him, the stranger stopped. He was only about thirty feet away now. Devin saw that he did not have an umbrella, but his face was hidden by a hoodie pulled down over it. In late April the air was still chilly at night and most people wore jackets, sweaters, other clothes that kept them warm in the cool darkness. Hoodies were especially popular, but also had the disconcerting effect of hiding the person’s face. It was only human nature to want to know who was beneath the hood, and why he was covering his face.
The man made no attempt to pretend he was not following Devin. He didn’t keep walking with a turn this way or that; he didn’t cross the street and continue; he didn’t even keep coming, as someone would who really was just walking along the same street at the same time. He stopped. In the rain.
“Who are you?” Devin shouted, tilting his umbrella back to show himself and improve his line of sight.
The man just stood and, Devin assumed, stared. It was dark out and raining, and neither could see the other with any great clarity.
Then the man began to walk toward him.
Decision time. Devin could run for his apartment, which was only a block away; he could call for help, someone would throw open a window and call 911 – or would they? – or he could do what he decided to do and stand his ground. He was tough, he trained two hours, three days a week; he was quick and fit and thin, and above all he was not Denise, not anymore. He had not endured the challenges of his life, the demands of simply being and becoming who he was, to flee in front of some punk on a Brooklyn street. He eased his shoulders back, loosened his grip on the umbrella to free his hands, and prepared for a fight.
The closer the man got, the more familiar he looked. He was wearing jeans, red sneakers and the green hoodie, and although his face was hidden, something about his overall presence rang a bell. There was also the limp, if that was the right word, a way of walking that made it appear one leg was shorter than the other, but housed more in the pelvis, a sort of up and down motion, like a piston misfiring every time the man took a step. Devin noticed the emblem on his sweatshirt, a rainbow flag with wording underneath it he couldn’t read. He relaxed; it must be a neighbor after all, or someone coming to visit a neighbor. At the very least the stranger was gay and, by inference, non-threatening.
But still he had not responded to Devin’s asking him who he was. And he had stopped, then kept coming. He was only about ten feet away now, and Devin put it all together: the walk, the sweatshirt, and finally, as the man drew close and eased his hood back – the face.
“You!” Devin said, startled.
Death by Pride- An Excerpt
Killing wasn’t as much fun as it used to be. He expected to be a bit rusty after three years, but he had never anticipated this … dullness, this sense that, in the words of bluesman B.B. King, the thrill was gone. Maybe he had just been away from it too long; maybe he needed to get up to speed. The man whose body he deposited into the East River just before midnight was, after all, only the first in his current series. There would be two more before the week was out, and maybe the old rush would return with the next one. He had to trust it would, to believe as a child believes that Santa Claus is real and will come shimmying down the chimney every Christmas Eve. Or how Dorothy believed, clicking her slippers in that dreadful movie. That might be a more appropriate comparison, given the occasion. Click, click, click … and he was home.
He did not come all the way back to New York to resume his annual ritual for something as lackluster as this first kill. Had it been the young man himself whose death stirred so little response in him? What was his name? Victor? Victor Someone. Dense and inattentive; he had been too easy, and far too handsome. Cute, really. The kind of cute that becomes very sexual in manhood. Innocent smile, calculated shyness. Victor Someone knew exactly what he was doing flirting in the store that afternoon, and he had succeeded, much to his regret.
Unfortunately, Victor wasn’t nearly as enjoyable to kill as he was to look at. Too easy, too unchallenging. Like a cat who had no trouble capturing a wingless bird, he had not had fun with this one. He would have to analyze the experience, figure out why it had not been as satisfying as it was before, and what he might need to do to reignite his excitement. Did he need to be more brutal? Did he need to introduce tools into the game, a scalpel, perhaps, or a drill of some kind? He would think hard on it. A decision had to be made quickly; he’d already placed an online ad looking for the next one and the emails were flooding into his special account, the one no one would ever trace no matter how hard they tried. A phantom as elusive as he was deserved a phantom email routed through Chicago, then London and Tokyo, server after server erasing any clue to its origin.
He would look at Victor Someone’s driver’s license in the morning. Sense memory was a beautiful thing, and nothing brought it back quite like his keepsakes. The license was his souvenir—his thirteenth. Lucky thirteen. The rest of the wallet stayed with the body. He wasn’t interested in making identification difficult. It didn’t matter if the police knew who had been killed, only that they would never find the man who did the killing.
It had been dark when he parked by the river. The new moon had worked to his favor, a first. No one had been around; he made sure no one saw a man with a heavy, strangely shaped object wrapped in black plastic trudging his way to the river’s edge. Then a simple heave and splash, and he was on his way home.
Bedtime at last. But before then, for a few minutes anyway, he wanted to go through those emails. He’d requested photos, knowing many of them would be old and meant to trick him, and that was okay. He was less interested in finding a man who looked exactly like his picture than he was in finding a man who made him want to kill. It was like falling in love with an image: he never knew which one it would be, but knew it when it happened. This one. Oh yes. This one will be here soon.
He turned off the kitchen light, took his tea cup with the little chain from the tea ball hanging over the side, and headed to his large master bedroom on the second floor. His laptop was open and waiting for him. He would sift through a dozen or so email responses and see if any of them struck his fancy. But first, the pictures of Victor. Victor Someone. He would enjoy those before sleeping. He always took pictures.
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