Exclusive Excerpt of author Greg Herren’s newest Scotty Bradley Mystery; Garden District Gothic

Garden District Gothic 


Greg Herren


The city of New Orleans was rocked to its very shaky foundations when the body of six-year-old beauty queen Delilah Metoyer was found, strangled, in the carriage house behind her family’s Garden District mansion. The crime was never solved, and the Metoyer family shattered in the aftermath of the crime. Thirty years later, Delilah’s brother asks Scotty to finally find his sister’s killer…putting Scotty and his friends and family into the crosshairs of a vicious killer.

Exclusive Excerpt:

You know you live in New Orleans when you leave your house on a hot Saturday morning in August for drinks wearing a red dress.

It was well over ninety degrees, and the humidity had tipped the heat index up to about 110, maybe 105 in the shade. The hordes of men and women in red dresses were waving handheld fans furiously as sweat ran down their bodies. Everywhere you looked, there were crowds of people in red, sweating but somehow, despite the ridiculous heat, having a good time. I could feel the heat from the pavement through my red-and-white saddle shoes, and was glad I’d decided wearing hose would be a bad idea. The thick red socks I was wearing were hot enough, thank you, and were soaked through. They were new, so were probably dyeing my ankles, calves and feet pink. But it was for charity, I kept reminding myself as I greeted friends and people-whose-names-I-couldn’t-remember-but-whose-faces-looked-familiar, as we worked our way up and down and around the Quarter.

Finally, I had enough around noon and decided to call it a day.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been so hot in my life, and I grew up in Alabama,” my sort-of-nephew, Taylor Wheeler, said in his soft accent, wiping sweat from his forehead as we trudged down Governor Nicholls Street on our way home.

Garden District Gothic

“It hasn’t been this hot in a while,” I replied, trying really hard not to laugh. I’d been forcing down giggles pretty much all day since he came galloping down the back steps the way he always does and I got my first look at his outfit. “But the last few summers have been mild—this is normal for August, usually.” It was true—everyone in town was complaining about the heat like it was something unusual. But we hadn’t had our usual hellish summer weather in a couple of years.

Last summer had not only been mild but dry, with little humidity and practically no rain—which was unheard of. Usually it rains every day around three in the summer, when the humidity has gotten so thick it turns to rain.

“I don’t even want to think about how much sweat is in my butt crack,” he complained, waving the fan he picked up somewhere furiously, trying to create a breeze.

I gave up trying to fight it and just gave in to the laughter.

Taylor is even taller than his biological uncle, my longtime partner Frank. Frank is six two, but while Taylor claims he’s only six four—I think he’s taller. He’s definitely more than two inches taller than Frank. He’s very self-conscious about being so tall, always slouching so he seems shorter. The slouching drives me crazy. I’m constantly telling him to stand up straight and to work on his postue, to embrace being tall since there’s no changing it.

It’s not working so far.

He’s also maybe one hundred and seventy pounds tops—despite eating everything in sight, he never seems to gains any weight. Also like his uncle Frank, he has a high metabolism. Long and lean, with enormous hands and feet, he looked absolutely ridiculous in the University of Alabama cheerleading uniform he’d bought on-line for the Red Dress Run. The top was intended to be a midriff shirt, but he was so tall it looked like a red and white sports bra with Bama written in script across his chest. The pleated red-and-white skirt barely covered his ass. He hadn’t shaved his legs or arms or stomach, either, so almost all the exposed, golden-tanned skin was covered with white-gold hair that glistened in the sun with sweat.

Taylor hadn’t originally wanted to do the Red Dress Run, an annual event that raises money for local New Orleans charities. Everyone who participates pays a registration fee and of course, you have to wear a red dress. There’s alcohol, food, great music and everyone has a really good time.

When I originally asked him if he wanted to do the Red Dress Run, he looked at me like I’d lost my mind or had heatstroke or something. “I have to wear a red dress?” he gave me that oh-so-typical teenaged eye roll I was getting to know far too well. “Why would anyone want to do that? In public? And it’s not Halloween?”

“New Orleans has a fine tradition of men wearing drag at all times of the year. Not just Fat Tuesday or Halloween,” my mom replied before I could splutter out something that would have only made him more resistant. “It’s for fun, Taylor, you know what that is, don’t you? You don’t live in Alabama any more, Taylor. Loosen up.”

I smothered a laugh as his face turned beet red.

Leave it to Mom. She knew how to handle him far better than I ever would.

It didn’t hurt that he worshiped her.

And that was all it took. Once he decided he was going to do it, he dove in head first. “My dress is a secret,” he said when I asked him if he wanted to go dress shopping with me. “You won’t see it till that day. I want it to be a surprise.”

I couldn’t have been prouder. New Orleans was good for him, as I knew it would be. He was adapting very quickly. Soon he’d out-local the natives.

So, I went shopping for my dress all by myself in the unbearable heat of a July afternoon. Colin was out of the country on another job for who knew how long, and Frank would be wrestling in Jacksonville the Friday night before the Red Dress Run, and there was no way he could get back on Saturday in time unless he drove all night. My best friend David was making his dress—he and some friends were doing a group costume, spoofing those reality shows about rich, botoxed shrieking women by going as the Grande Dames of Chalmette. I liked the idea, but I can’t sew so that was out. I didn’t find anything I liked in the shops on Decatur Street, so I moved on to Magazine Street in Uptown. At a consignment store I found a gorgeous red Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress that required just the tiniest little bit of alteration, and the store had a seamstress there on site. All in all, it was a steal at $60, which included the tailoring.

Exclusive Excerpt: Confessions by Ethan Stone, a Reno PD Book

Confessions, by Ethan Stone, (a Reno PD Book 1)


A Reno PD Case File

A serial killer known as the Confessor is kidnapping and torturing gay men, and Reno Police Department Evidence Technician Leif Carson is determined to catch him.

His personal life isn’t any less stressful. Despite being a virgin and having zero experience with men, he can’t stop thinking about his best friend’s ex, Rafe Castillo. Rafe is suffering from PTSD, but that doesn’t stop Leif from wanting to be with him.

Complete opposites, they’re an amazing fit once they do get together—until Rafe’s PTSD gets in the way and he walks away from the relationship before it has a chance to truly blossom. Even though he has intense feelings for the man, Leif has no choice but to let him go.

When the Confessor kidnaps Rafe, Leif does everything possible to locate him before he’s murdered. Rafe’s near-death experience changes him profoundly, but the danger isn’t over yet. Leif and Rafe will have to face pure evil together if they’re going to last.

Cover Image


The following excerpt takes place after Rafe has gone missing and Leif is determined to figure out where he is. The disappearance isn’t yet linked to the Confessor case so Leif is trying to work the evidence from Rafe’s car on the down low.

I HAD just started examining Rafe’s car when a loud voice ordered me to halt. I peered up and into the glaring eyes of Reno Police Chief Luther. She was a short, squat black woman, and she did not look amused.

“Mr. Carson, what the hell are you doing?”

Playing innocent, I kept my voice low. “I was just about to start searching the vehicle for evidence.”

“There are several problems with that,” she stated. “The first is that you are not an evidence collector. You examine the evidence after it is found. Secondly, this vehicle is not part of an ongoing case. And even if it was, it’s not on the list of priorities. Your priority, as if you didn’t realize, is the confessions case.”

“I don’t always just examine the evidence, ma’am. Lately I’ve helped Doc Hettrick with the victims in the confessions case. So I have indeed collected evidence.”

She shot me an icy glare. “Don’t mess with me, Carson. I am not a happy woman. I’ve got the mayor and the damn press all over my ass. They hardly cared until Fitzpatrick was involved. Now it’s top priority. Drop everything else and locate this guy. As if we already haven’t been working our asses off.”

Semantics and clarifications weren’t going to win an argument with the chief, so I tried a different tactic. I’d spent time with her outside of work because she and Cristian were still close, and I knew her to be a caring woman with a heart of gold.

“Chief…. Lex, this is important to me. I accept that doesn’t matter to you.”

She held up a hand, and I stopped speaking.

“I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, but right now every work hour is being accounted for. If I have you working on a case of lower importance, I’m going to hear about it. Hell, there isn’t even an open case, though I am aware of Rafe’s disappearance.”

“I’m not even on the clock.”

“But you’re using police resources to do the job.”

I sighed and dropped my head to my chest, sure I had just lost.

“I’m not heartless, but we have to play the game right now, Leif.”

She winked, and hope surged in my chest again.

“What can I do?”

“First, get on the clock and file a missing persons report on Rafe. Include the evidence you have so far, what you and Jeremy did on your own. Just don’t mention you brought in a suspect for a case that didn’t exist at the time. Once the report is processed and in the system, connect the car to the case.”

“Then I can check out the vehicle?”

“I need a full day’s work on the confessions case, but if you choose to stay past your eight hours to work on Rafe’s disappearance, I’ll okay it. Not overtime, mind you, but I will allow you to use our resources. Provided it isn’t a huge expense.”

“I can’t imagine it will be. Maybe some DNA if I’m lucky.”

“Do we have a deal?” She extended her hand, but I ignored it and hugged her instead.

“Thank you for being so amazing.”

She playfully shoved me away. “Don’t be telling anyone you like me. I have to keep up this tough-ass persona or I’ll get walked all over.”

“I’ll be sure to trash-talk you a little.”

She grinned. “Perfect.”

I was in the process of sealing the car to ensure no one else got in when I noticed a small flower in the backseat. I quickly bagged it, then finished the task at hand and headed to my office. I set the flower aside and turned my attention to the case I’d been ordered to spend my time on.

Since there wasn’t anything new, I reexamined the evidence I did have. I searched for more information on the buttons, eventually finding one store in Reno that had bought the company’s remaining stock when it was discontinued. Fen Fashions had been a small handmade clothing store open from 1983 to 1996. It had been owned by Loretta Fenmore, but she had died a year after her business shut down. There was no remaining family as far as I could tell. The building had been torn down and replaced with a grocery store.

Turning my attention back to the confession footage, I tried to see if I had missed anything. I enhanced the words on the back wall and figured out the first one said Welcome. However, the remaining words were either out of focus or blocked, and I couldn’t get a solid clue on what they could be. I played around with the letters I could see, but nothing made sense. It was possible “poe” was part of it, but that didn’t help in the slightest.

I’d about put in my eight hours when my office phone rang.

“Leif Carson.”

“Mr. Carson, this is Debbie Crane.”

I felt like I should recognize the name, but I couldn’t place it. “Who?”

“Dr. Deborah Crane, the botanist you contacted to identify a plant you found.”

“Oh yes, I remember now.” There had been a plant found on the first two bodies I couldn’t label.

“The plant is Sphaeralcea munroana. Also called a Flame Checker. It’s native to the western states, and around here it grows in the tailings of old mines. It’s not common in residential areas at all.”

I paused for a second and opened up the pictures I had of the plants. I hadn’t checked them out lately because I was waiting for her call. I grabbed the bag with the flower I’d found in Rafe’s car. It was the same size and shape but a different color. “Is the flower always the same red as the ones I sent you?”

“Oh no. Their colorings vary greatly, from bright red to orange or dark yellow. Often it’s a mix of the three and it looks like a flame, hence the nickname.”

The one I was staring at did indeed resemble a flame. “If I take a picture of a flower, can I send it to you to see if it’s the same kind?”

“I can give you a guess, but I couldn’t be sure until I examined it.”

I snapped an image of the flower and e-mailed it to her while we stayed on the phone.

“It just arrived,” she said. “Hold on one second.”

I waited.

“From the picture, I’d say it’s most likely a Flame Checker.”

“Thank you, Doctor. I’ll be in touch if I need anything else.” I hung up without waiting for her to say good-bye.

The same flower found on the bodies of Ray Ray Guthrie and Gavin Chapman was also in Rafe’s vehicle. It could be a coincidence, but my gut told me I was right. I wanted to be incorrect; I truly did. Because if what I suspected was true, then Rafe was in the hands of a madman—a serial killer going after gay men.

I dashed to the garage and did a quick examination of Rafe’s car. The backseat had been laid down, most likely so Rafe and whoever he was with could go at it. I searched down the sides, and my fingers brushed something small. I had to stretch to get at it but managed to squeeze two fingers around it and pull it out.

“Jesus Christ.” It was a button. Dark wood with an ivory inset, just like the ones I’d found near the sites of the last two victims. It could be another happenstance, but that many coincidences really worried me. It was too much to ignore. Way too much.

I called both Cristian and Jeremy and asked them to come to the garage immediately. Jeremy arrived first, but I made him wait until Cristian got there. I told them everything, putting emphasis on the plant and the buttons. When I finished, I stared at them both. “Well, what do you think? Am I reading too much into this?” I wanted one of them to tell me I was being insane and overreaching with my conclusions. Neither one of them spoke, and I nearly went out of my mind waiting for one of them to say something.

“I need to phone Lex,” Flesh said and grabbed his phone. “Hey, you need to get down here right now, Chief.”

Lex was there a couple of minutes later, and I had to go over what I found once more. Then she made me repeat it.

“Is he saying what I think he’s saying?” she asked Cristian.

“Yes, he is. Rafe Castillo’s disappearance is connected to the Confessor.”

She pointed at me. “Write up your report ASAP so we can officially combine the cases.” She turned to leave, then faced me again. “Good job, Leif.”

When she was gone I grabbed Cristian’s hand and held it. “Do you comprehend what this means? Rafe’s been held by this psycho for days. He was the backup victim while the killer tortured Fitzpatrick. That would mean Rafe is next up to be brutalized. It’s probably happening right now. This very instant.”

Cristian pulled me close and wrapped his arms around me in a rare instance of sensitivity.

“We’ll find him. I promise.”

I wanted to stay strong, but I couldn’t, no matter how much I tried. I buried my face in Cristian’s shoulder and cried.

Cristian let me weep for several minutes. Then he stepped back and held me at arm’s length. “I know this is tough, Leif, and I know you want to lose yourself in your fear and grief, but now is not the time for that. Now is the time to pull yourself together. We all need to be one hundred percent so we can save Rafe. We are going to save him. He’s not going to be the next dead body we discover.”

He was right. As much as I wanted to collapse and let the emotions overtake me, I couldn’t. Rafe was depending on me. He needed me. And I wasn’t going to let him down.
Ethan Stone
Romance on the Edge

Ethan Stone doesn’t write your typical boy meets boy stories. With a combination of love and suspense he makes his characters work hard for their HEAs. If they can survive what he puts them through, then they can survive anything. He enjoys Romance with an Edge.
Ethan has been reading mysteries and thrillers since he was young. He’s had a thing for guys in uniform for just as long. That may have influenced the stories he writes.
He’s a native Oregonian with two kids. One of whom has made him a grandfather three times over; even though he is way too young.

Readers can find Ethan online.
Facebook: www.facebook.com/ethan.stone.54
Twitter: @ethanjstone
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/ethanjstone/
Tumblr: www.tumblr.com/blog/ethanstone
Email: ethanstone.nv@gmail.com
His books: http://www.ethanjstone.com/my-books

Exclusive Excerpt: The Angels Singers by Dorien Grey: a Dick Hardesty Mystery – Book #12

Book #12 of the Dick Hardesty Mysteries, by the late, great Dorien Grey 


Grant Jefferson joins the Gay Men’s Chorus as a protégé of its biggest supporter, and begins causing more dischord than harmony. Determined he’s going to Broadway, Grant sees the chorus as the means to his end, and doesn’t care much how many of the other members he uses as his stepping stones—or how hard they get stepped on.

So, when a car bomb ends Grant’s plans to be a star on The Great White Way, there is no shortage of possible suspects; and when the chorus’ board of directors hires Dick Hardesty to see what he can find out about the murder, he ends up in a case as complicated as a madrigal.

Exclusive Excerpt:

I did have occasion to get a small assignment from Glen O’Banyon, which gave me the opportunity to stop by his office and talk with him for a few minutes. I brought up the subject of the chorus as subtly as possible, telling him we’d gone to one of Booth’s get-togethers and met his nephew Grant.

Glen gave me a raised eyebrow and small smile.

“Ah, yes, his ‘nephew.’ Crandall has a very large family, it appears. This is the first one who sings, however. Roger Rothenberger is not overly happy with…Grant, is it?”

I nodded.

“Well, I’m sure Grant will be on his way as soon as he has accomplished whatever it was he set out to accomplish.”

Though I didn’t say anything, I realized Jefferson’s goal might well be to add his being a soloist with the chorus to his résumé. However, I couldn’t resist mentioning the conflict revolving around the “I Am What I Am” solo and that the guy who was set to do it had been involved in a near-fatal accident.

Another raised eyebrow, but no smile this time.

“And you’re suggesting…?”

I quickly raised a hand in not-overly-convincing protest.


“No, no. I’m suggesting nothing. Strange things do happen. But I’d hate to see the chorus torn apart over all this.” I was tempted to mention the Porsche and Jim Bowers’ faulty memory but figured I’d said enough for the moment.

“Well,” Glen said, “I know Crandall does like to throw his weight around and I know he and Roger have had their run-ins. But Roger isn’t hesitant in standing up to him. And despite the chorus’ being seriously inconvenienced without Crandall’s financial support, the board won’t let him go too far. I really hadn’t been aware that the ‘nephew’ was being such a disruption. I’ll keep my eyes and ears a little more open until this all blows over. The last thing any of us wants is for the chorus to suffer, or to risk losing Roger—he’s the heart and soul of it all.”

“Aren’t games fun?” I asked.

Glen shrugged and grinned.

I left shortly thereafter, feeling a little better about things. I knew part of my concern was for Jonathan. I didn’t want anything to stand in the way of his enjoying every minute of his time with the chorus.


Jonathan spoke with Eric and a few other chorus members several times during the week and over the weekend, and the usual quietly bubbling fountain of rumors had become a geyser. Jerry and Tony, one the couples I’d met at Booth’s, were close to breaking up over Grant’s intrusion into their relationship. The only reason this particular piece of news was raised above the level of high school gossip was that Tony and Jerry had been together for a number of years, and I always truly hate to see couples break up.

But most of the rumors concerned a reported major confrontation between Roger Rothenberger and Crandall Booth—it wasn’t hard to figure out what it might have been about. How anybody knew anything about it at all was, as with all rumors, rather vague, but I’d not be surprised if Grant had been behind it.


Jonathan returned from rehearsal the next Tuesday with a story right out of a soap opera. Just before they were set to rehearse the last song of the night, Jerry had stormed into the room in a rage and made a lunge at Grant, apparently with the intent to beat the crap out of him. Some of the other members grabbed him while Grant took off and sped away in his baby-blue Porsche.

Then Jerry started yelling at Tony and had the poor guy practically in tears. Roger finally had to order Jerry to get out. Jonathan wasn’t quite sure what it was all about, but it really rattled everyone, and Roger ended the rehearsal early.

“I’d have been home earlier,” Jonathan added, “except that a lot of us hung around outside talking about it.”

Significantly, earlier in the evening they had rehearsed “I Am What I Am” with Grant singing the solo. But also significant, Jonathan said, was Roger’s all but totally ignoring Grant, saying nothing at all about his performance, making no suggestions and no comments. Instead, he had concentrated on honing the parts of the rest of the chorus.

This snub was lost on no one, and Jonathan was truly concerned that the rift was seriously and negatively affecting the entire chorus. I assumed he was overreacting, but then, I wasn’t there, nor was I familiar with all the dynamics of the situation.

I was paying more attention to the goings-on of the chorus than I normally would have had I been, say, working on a really interesting case. But because it was so important to Jonathan, it was important to me.

Life at home went smoothly enough, with fish feedings and plant waterings and Saturday chores and evening Story Times. There was also a brief trip to Mercy Memorial on Saturday afternoon, squeezed in between the dry cleaners and the grocery store, for Jonathan to visit Jim Bowers. Bowers was making steady improvement, though he still could not—or would not—give any details of the accident. Jonathan told me he didn’t believe him—odd for Jonathan—but had said nothing to Jim.

Growing thunder in the storm clouds hovering over the chorus were evinced by even more phone calls than on the previous week. That Jim would quite likely be able to return before the next concert—and thereby take back the solo honors on “I Am What I Am”—appeared to be fomenting a minor insurgency among Grant’s supporters, with hints that, if he were denied the solo, he and his supporters might boycott the concert. Such a rebellion could have possibly forced its cancellation, or at the very least sabotaged its impact.

All this over one song! I still couldn’t help but shake my head every time I thought about it. This had moved well beyond the stage of being a tempest in a teapot and was now passing a typhoon in a soup tureen. I hoped it would all blow over before the chorus suffered irreparable damage.


A week later, as Jonathan was getting ready for rehearsal, Eric called to ask if he could give him a ride there, as he was having problems with his car—a huge old white 1968 Dodge only slightly smaller than a lifeboat from the Queen Mary. Jonathan immediately agreed, which meant he had to leave practically right from the dinner table.

When he got home, I asked him, as always, how rehearsal went.

“Well,” he said, “I got a flat tire halfway to Eric’s, for starters, so we were about fifteen minutes late getting there. But Grant didn’t show up at all, and he hadn’t called anyone to say he wouldn’t be there. Mr. Rothenberger didn’t say anything, but I don’t think he was too happy about it.”

The reason for Grant’s absence was made abundantly clear by the next morning’s local news. The lead story opened with a shot of a reporter standing amidst police vehicles, an ambulance, and fire trucks, talking about a car explosion “…shattering windows in neighboring buildings.” The camera then panned across a debris field to a mangled car, most of which was hidden beneath a bright-yellow tarp.

“The unidentified driver,” the reporter said, “was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of the explosion is unknown.”

On the Web:              

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Exclusive Excerpt: An Unwanted Request, A Ryan Kinkaid Mystery by G. Jay

An Unwanted Request, a Ryan Kinkaid Mystery – Book 5, by G. Jay


Ryan Kinkaid and his husband, Timothy York, witness a crime that others are quick to write off as an accident. Not surprisingly, Ryan can’t dismiss it so easily, even though the victim is someone he despises.

In this fifth Ryan Kinkaid adventure, summer has come again. Ryan is trying to stop thinking about the events of last spring and a diversion arrives when Lavinia Walsh-Preston, the older sister of Nicholas Walsh, comes back into his life – albeit briefly. With Ty’s help, they work together to discover the identity of the person who killed the cold-hearted woman by pushing her down a flight of stairs, with their only clue being the male voice they had previously heard speaking with her. Working under the radar at first, their pursuit quickly takes a new direction as the hunters become the prey.

Meredith and Lauren, Jason and Eric — even Brownie — are all here again, enhancing this tale.

Unwanted cover22


The voices came again, only this time more distinctly and even Ty heard them. Like me he paused to listen. We stood silent, now able to detect muffled footsteps as well. One voice was high, one was low.

“Could it be Kathy?” Ty whispered.

I shook my head intently listening and I held up one hand to stop him from saying anything further.

Their words were indecipherable, but it was obvious by their tone that they were having an argument. Their voices grew louder and clearer as they approached the cellar door above.

“I don’t care what you want,” A female barked. Her voice was clipped and reedy.

I closed my eyes and grimaced. “Oh shit!” I said under my breath. “It’s her.”

The cinderblock wall kept Ty from hearing as clearly and he gave me an inquisitive look.

“Lavinia!” I mouthed.

He smiled and whispered, “Finally I have my chance to meet the woman.”

I shook my head annoyed, not sharing his interest.

She and the person with her were now in the kitchen, the sound of their movements and voices reaching my ears clearly. I tried to come up with a plan to avoid seeing her again, but I saw no way out other than the way we came in.

“Please, I beg you,” an unknown male voice implored.

Lavinia cackled. “Don’t bother me you freak!”

Ty had moved behind me and I turned to look at him. As soon as our gaze connected, his eyes widened in shock and alarm as a shrill scream rang in our ears.

I turned back in the direction of the shriek. As if in slow motion, I saw Lavinia falling, sailing over the wooden steps. She flailed, unable to grab hold of anything to stop her swift descent. Her body hit the hard basement floor with a loud thud. And all went quiet.

Ty and I rushed over to where she lay motionless on her side. I knelt next to her, checking to see if she was still alive. The force of her impact on the stone floor and her age made me think her odds were slim. Gently I touched her shoulder and she gave a low distressed moan. With little prodding from me, she rolled onto her back. Her eyelids fluttered and her lips formed inaudible words. There was a bruise already forming on her forehead, but no blood.

“Mrs. Preston,” I said, trying to capture her attention. “Just lie still. We’re calling for help.” I glanced up at Ty who was already calling 911 on his cell phone.

I could see she was trying to regain control, her will struggling not to give up. I took hold of her hand. It was cold, bony and frail, and it trembled in mine.

“They’re sending an ambulance,” Ty told me.

I looked toward the top of the stairs, expecting to see a concerned man looking down at us. All I saw was a vacant doorway. “Where’s the guy she was talking to?”

Realizing the possibilities, a look of anger came across Ty’s handsome features. Without a word he sprinted up the stairs, taking two at a time, to confront the uncaring companion.

As he left I turned my attention back to Lavinia. Her eyes were now wide open with fright and she was looking directly up at me. I couldn’t tell if she recognized me, but I could see she was trying to tell me something.

“What?” I asked and leaned down, my ear almost touching her pale wrinkled lips.

“Help me,” she quietly forced out.

“Yes I am,” I said loudly while drawing back, attempting to penetrate her confusion and pain. “Help is on the way. Just lie still.”

She mumbled again, and again I leaned in to hear her feeble words. “Get him.” Her skeletal fingers twitched against my palm to accentuate her request. Then her eyes closed and she relaxed, unable to fight any further.

For several long seconds I stared at her, thinking she was dead. But then I saw her shallow breathing and knew she was still holding on.

I sat back on the cold concrete floor, absentmindedly stroking her hand and remembering. When my father died I wasn’t there to comfort him. His heart attack was so quick that even though I was in the house, he was gone before anyone could reach him. And when my mother died of cancer I was sitting in a chair on the other side of the hospital room — not even close enough to touch her. So why should I find myself sitting on a damp basement floor consoling someone I hardly knew and wished I’d never met?

Ty came to the doorway above, drawing my attention away from my thoughts. “Whoever he is, he’s gone. By the time I got upstairs and outside, all I saw was the dust of his car as he sped away.” He continued, “I heard the ambulance sirens, so they should be here in a few seconds. I’ll wait outside for them.”

I nodded as he disappeared once more, leaving me alone — alone with Lavinia Walsh-Preston on the cold basement floor.