It was with some regret that
Ellie extracted herself from Jordan’s
embrace only a few hours later. She wanted to get to the station early. With a
little luck, she could find something to present to the lieutenant that
convinced him it was worth talking to the A.D.A.
Despite the interrupted sleep,
she felt like she had a lot more energy than in recent days. After having to
deal with Natalie, assessing and coping with the damage she’d done, Ellie
welcomed the opportunity to focus on more important matters.
The baby plan, first and
Maybe, she’d have the opportunity
to clear an innocent man’s name.
The officer working in Records
regarded her with wide eyes when she made her request.
“Wow. That was a long time ago.
What you need might not even be in this building.”
“Could you take a look?”
“Yes, of course. Give me a
The woman typed something on her
keyboard. She looked up at Ellie, giving her an apologetic smile. “You might
want to sit down for a moment. First, we’ll have to check if the file was
Ellie had to admit that she
hadn’t even considered these possible obstacles, but it made the case all the
“That’s okay.” She hadn’t snuck
out of bed at 5:30 for
nothing. Ellie hid a yawn behind her hand.
“Okay, there’s a file here. I can
get it for you, but for the rest, you’ll have to go to the Archives. They open
“Thank you, that’s very helpful.”
The officer disappeared behind a
door, and Ellie was left alone. Ten minutes later, she had to sit up straighter
in her chair to make sure she wouldn’t fall asleep. Another five minutes later,
the officer reappeared.
“I’m sorry about that,” she said.
“Can I get you anything else?”
“No, thanks. This is great. I’ll
go to the Archives later.”
Ellie found Maria Doss at her
desk. Her night seemed to have been fairly uneventful.
“Good morning. I take it you
didn’t have to notify the lieutenant about anything.”
“Why are you here already? What’s
wrong with you?”
Ellie laughed. “I was just about
to get myself a coffee. I take it you’d like one?”
“I shouldn’t, as I’m going to a
brunch later, but yes, please.”
A few minutes later, Ellie was
back, enjoying her coffee as she went over the specifics of the Wilder case.
These forms had been filled out
on a typewriter. She noticed the names of the investigators, who would be long
retired by now—or dead. She hoped she’d be able to find the retired ones and
talk to them.
George Wilder was a
twenty-year-old college student, accused of and convicted for killing his
girlfriend Stella Brown after a party. He claimed he was innocent, but the
evidence was damning: The murder weapon wrapped in a bloody shirt, hidden in
the closet of his dorm room. There was the mention of a witness who had seen
him go into Stella’s room the night of the murder. Where was the motive? Some
of their classmates suggested that jealousy might have been a reason, but if
Stella had been seeing someone else, no one knew about it. It remained unclear
whether this theory was valid.
Ellie assumed that she might find
more information at the courthouse. Something about Wilder had made the jurors
think that he had committed the atrocious crime. He had admitted that both he
and Stella had been drinking, but that he’d said goodbye to her at the door to
her dorm room and left. He appeared devastated over her death, and never
Ellie tried to imagine the scene,
a young couple enjoying a night out together, going home to their respective
dorms, then…what? Someone had stolen into Stella’s room with an axe? That was a
big risk. She might wake up, try to defend herself, scream…unless there had
been more in her blood than alcohol.
She needed more of a background
on both the victim and convicted suspect. She started to jot down notes—Archives, Investigators, Family, Prison, Newspapers—when
a soft kiss to her neck alerted her to the fact that Jordan had finally made it to work.
The gesture was tender and quick, but of course Maria had noticed.
“You two are so adorable, it’s
annoying,” she said. “I’m out of here. Thanks for the coffee, Ellie, and good
“So did you find anything?” Jordan was in a
much better mood than she had been when Allen approached them about the case.
Of course she had slept longer and taken the time for breakfast. Ellie also
prided herself in having to do something with Jordan’s much improved spirits,
including their conversation about the future and subsequent activities the
“It’s too early to say, but for
one, the motive is still unclear to me from what I’ve seen. I have a list of
places to go.”
“It will be tough to find most of
the people involved at the time.”
“Yeah, but we already have Doreen
Byrd. She might be able to tell me where to find some of those people. And I
want to talk to the prison employees. I’ll take it up with the lieutenant when
he comes in, and he’ll hopefully agree that we talk to Valerie.”
Jordan looked doubtful. Ellie
thought that unfortunately, she had a reason—A.D.A. Esposito wouldn’t follow
along on a vague hunch, but Ellie needed her on her side.
“I can’t help it,” she said. “I
keep thinking about what Jill said—what if it was someone we cared about? We
can’t just forget about it because it happened sixty years ago. There might be
a murderer out there who’s been enjoying his freedom while this man spent his
life in prison.”
“It’s a shame if that’s what
happened. The system isn’t perfect.”
“Such dark thoughts on a
beautiful morning,” Valerie Esposito joked.
Ellie jumped to her feet.
“You’re here! Could I talk to you
for a second?”
“Actually, I was here to speak to
your boss for a second, and then I have a working brunch later. If you could
come to my office this afternoon?”
“Perhaps I could join you in the
lieutenant’s office? I swear this won’t take long.”
Lieutenant Carroll was already in
the room, observing the scene with amusement.
“You see, Counselor, it’s almost
impossible to say no to Detective Harding. Five minutes.”
“That’s all I need for now. Thank
you so much.”
She sent a triumphant smile to Jordan before
joining Carroll and Esposito.
Ellie usually got what she wanted. If there was anything new to find about this case, she’d find it.
Did George Wilder die in prison serving a life sentence for a crime he didn’t commit? A reporter asks Ellie on behalf of Wilder’s family to look into the decades old murder. When initial inquiries raise doubts about Wilder’s guilt, Ellie thinks that the real killer might have gone unpunished, but she doesn’t have much time to prove her theory.
Jordan gets more than she bargains for when she accepts a tip from a detective with another precinct. The murder of a local store owner turns out to have international implications.
Together, Jordan and Ellie work on the most important project of their lives…
More about author, Barbara Winkes:
Barbara Winkes writes suspense and romance with lesbian characters at the center. She has always loved stories in which women persevere and lift each other up. Expect high drama and happy endings. Women loving women always take the lead.
by a million-dollar view of the Bay Bridge in the window of her
eighteenth-floor office on California Street, Ruth Fleming regarded me
skeptically. The large, gleaming desk that served as a buffer between us held
an in and out box and a complicated, many-buttoned phone but not a single
personal item; no framed family photographs or fancy paperweights for her. Her
desk proclaimed she was all business, as did the woman herself. Her makeup had
been painstakingly applied to project attractiveness without a trace of
sensuality just as the silk burgundy shawl that draped the padded shoulders of
her jacket seemed calculated to soften her authority. The nameplate on her desk
identified her as a vice president. The only other women I had seen when she
led me from the foyer to her office were secretaries. Larry Ross’s words may
have been good enough for her boss, Myles Landon, in L.A., but Fleming tapped
with doubtful fingertips the résumé she had asked me to bring her.
have to say, Mr. Rios, you don’t seem to have any relevant qualifications for
this job,” she observed in a firm but modulated voice.
what I told Myles Landon,” I replied. “He seemed to think my experience as a
litigator would be sufficient. You don’t agree?”
frowned. “No, I don’t, but Myles is the boss, so here we are.”
having an unqualified man foisted on her was a reminder that the old boys
network was alive and well. I sympathized but was hardly in a position to
concur. I needed the work.
Fleming,” she said, automatically.
“Mrs. Fleming, give me a chance and if you think I’m not up to the job, I’ll quit and tell Landon it was my decision.”
seemed a fraction less annoyed with me. “I’ll hold you to that, Mr. Rios.” She
picked up a folder from her in box and slipped it across the desk. “This case
involves a claim of accidental death which would require us to pay double the
hundred thousand dollars. A lot of money, obviously, but not in and of itself
the reason for us to investigate. The cause of death is accidental
asphyxiation—apparently, there was a gas leak in the insured’s apartment. His,
uh, male companion was also in the apartment but he survived. The companion is
also the beneficiary. The claim was filed on his behalf a few days after the
accident, but we haven’t been able to reach him since.”
filed the claim?”
agent who wrote up the policy. Not one of our agents. We bought the policy from
bought a policy from another insurance company? Is that a common practice?”
It’s called reinsurance. The selling company wants to spread the risk of loss
by carrying fewer policies and the buying company wants the business. It works
out for everyone. Anyway, we called the Confederation agent and he said he
can’t find the claimant either. Obviously, we’re not going to take any action
on the claim until we have a beneficiary.”
all you want me to do? Find the beneficiary?”
allowed herself a tight little smile. “Well, to start. After that, I expect you
to do the standard investigation.”
swiveled her chair away from me and reached for a fat binder on the credenza
behind her. “This is our operations manual. You’ll find a chapter on
investigating death claims.”
took the binder and the manila folder. “May I call you if I have a question?”
vice president in charge of operations,” she said. “Perhaps you could call
I crammed the operations manual and the case file into
my briefcase and lugged it into the Gold Mountain Café, a Chinese-American
restaurant near Civic Center. The restaurant was close by the county law
library and within walking distance of both the civil and criminal courthouses.
I was drawn by its cheap prices, decent food and the willingness of its elderly
owners, the Chus, to let me camp out at a back booth for a couple of hours and
work when it was inconvenient to walk back to my office. If I was being
entirely truthful, Gold Mountain held one other big attraction for me: Adam,
the Chus’ twenty-three-year-old grandson. Adam was their jack-of-all-trades who
cooked, waited tables, ran the cash register and even, I saw, passing the place
late one night, mopped the floors after closing time.
The Gold Mountain was never crowded and often almost
empty. The menu featured both American diner food, burgers and Denver omelets,
and standard Chinese food, wonton soup and beef with broccoli, and hadn’t been
changed in years; new prices had simply been taped over the old ones. Unlike
the retro fifties diners springing up elsewhere in the city, Gold Mountain’s
long, Formica counter, checkerboard linoleum floor and red vinyl booths
appeared to actually date to the second Eisenhower Administration. Cracks in
the vinyl were covered with duct tape and Adam’s best efforts could not lift
the decades of scuff marks on the floor.
Adam was a fresh and vivid presence in the dim,
shabby, somnolent restaurant. He towered over his diminutive grandparents and
he was massively muscled, his big thighs and powerful chest straining the seams
of his black trousers and white dress shirt waiter’s uniform. His square-jawed,
big featured, broad face, topped with a close-cropped bush of inky hair, had a
warrior’s fierceness in repose but when he smiled, which he did frequently,
dimples and a natural sweetness emerged. Our brief conversations about the fate
of the Giants took a turn toward friendship when I asked him about the
photographs that inconspicuously lined the walls the restaurants; old
black-and-white images of Chinatown. The one that hung above the booth where I
usually sat depicted a counter restaurant filled with Chinese laborers, some in
Western clothes, some in Chinese garb, their hair in queues, plainly taken in
the late nineteenth-century.
“That was our first restaurant,” he explained. “On
Grant Street. There’s only a counter because back then most of the Chinese were
guys without families so they’d come in, sit down, eat and leave. You can still
find a few of those old counter restaurants in Chinatown.”
“What happened to their families?”
“The guys came over to work and make money to send
home. The women and kids stayed behind in China. Then the exclusion act kept
“How many restaurants has your family owned?”
“Gold Mountain is number four. The one in the picture
was destroyed in the earthquake. We opened another one in North Beach but the
Italians burned it down.”
His good-natured expression soured a little. “The
Italians didn’t want any Chinese in their neighborhood so they torched the
place. The third one opened in Chinatown. Then my granddad opened this one in
the sixties. The Chinatown place got sold, so Gold Mountain is the end of our
“Are you going to take it over?”
Adam laughed. “No, this isn’t the life for me.” He
glanced toward his grandparents who were having an animated conversation in
Cantonese at the cash register. “A couple of years ago, he had a stroke and she
told him it was time for them to retire, but this place is more to him than a
business. This is what his dad and granddad handed down to him and he was ready
to die at the grill. She asked me to talk to him because,” he said with a grin,
“I’ve always been his favorite grandkid. I’m the only one who listened to his
stories. We made a bargain. I’d come and work for him and he’ll retire next
year, after New Year’s. Chinese New Year’s.”
“None of their children want the place?”
He laughed again. “My dad and his brothers and sisters
had to work here when they were kids. They hated it.”
“So, basically, you’re putting your life on hold to
work here until your grandfather’s ready to retire?”
“Sure,” he said with a quizzical grin as if my
question puzzled him. “It’s for my family.”
After that, he’d linger at my table and talk after he
took my order or, if he was in the kitchen, he’d come out and take his break
with me. I quickly realized there were two Adams. One was the easygoing,
all-American boy with the quick smile who loved sports and joked about being
too tired from his twelve-hour days to look for a girlfriend. The other was the
serious young man who had learned from his grandfather the difficult history of
the Chinese in San Francisco and who, when he spoke of it, showed flashes of
the warrior I had first taken him for.
Once when we were talking, I mentioned Yick Wo versus Hopkins, an 1886 Supreme
Court decision I had studied in my constitutional law class. In Yick Wo, the court ruled that a San
Francisco ordinance requiring permits for laundries violated the equal
protection clause because it was administered in a way that denied almost all
Chinese applicants. Adam knew all about Yick
Wo and its aftermath.
“That was just one law,” he said. “There were lots of
them to keep us in our place and when they didn’t work, the mobs did things
like burning down my family’s restaurant. The city’s always been a tough place
He frowned. “You ever really looked at Chinatown? I
mean, past the tourist joints? It’s a slum. San Francisco’s always been a tough
place for us.” The easy smile reappeared. “But there’s good and there’s bad,
right? You know why my granddad named this place Golden Mountain Café?”
“No, and I was curious since there aren’t any
“In Cantonese, Gold Mountain is gam saan. That’s what the Chinese immigrants called San Francisco,
before they got here. They thought they’d come over and get rich.”
“Find streets paved with gold?”
“Yeah,” he said. “They didn’t find that but a lot of
our families found a home. Hey, is that all you’re going to eat?”
“Are you trying to fatten me up for a reason?”
He grinned. He’d made it clear he thought I was too
thin and often piled my plate with more food than I could possibly eat, then
packaged the leftovers.
Larry had warned me not to get romantically involved
my first year of recovery but I figured even he wouldn’t object to my discreet
infatuation with this smiling straight boy. Because clearly, Adam was a straight guy, cluelessly friendly
and open and at ease in his big body as only straight guys can be. A gay guy
who looked like him would have carried himself with the slightest bit of
theatricality to show off the gym-built muscles, and the eyes of gay men in the
city at that moment were all touched with a drop of anxiety, like a tiny tear that
never fell. Adam’s eyes were clear.
I felt Adam’s meaty fingers digging into my shoulders
and briefly massaging me. “Hey, what you got there?”
The operations manual was open on the table before me.
I explained to him what it was and the job I had taken on.
“I thought you did criminal law,” he said, positioning
himself in front of me, order pad in hand.
“Business is slow and a man’s gotta eat,” I said.
He smiled. “Speaking of eating, what’ll you have
“Surprise me?” I ventured.
“Tuna melt and tomato soup.”
“I have that most days. What’s the surprise?”
“Side of salmonella,” he said. “Kidding!”
He went off and I stared appreciatively at his broad
back and big, tight glutes, and then, with a sigh, turned my attention to my
to the opaque legal documents I was accustomed to, the operations manual was
refreshingly to the point. Thus far I had learned that every life insurance
policy contained a contestability clause that allowed the insurer to challenge
the validity of the policy within two years of the death claim. Whether the
company exercised that option depended on the results of a preliminary inquiry
called a death confirmation investigation. This investigation centered on three
areas: whether the insured’s information on the original application—name, age,
gender, address—contained any material misstatements that would void the
policy; confirmation of the insured’s identity to make sure the insured and
decedent were the same person; and verification of cause of death. If those three
things checked out, the claim was paid.
opened the file on William Ryan, the man whose death I was investigating. There
wasn’t much there: a copy of the application, the policy itself, and the death
claim. At the time he applied for the life insurance policy, a year and a half
earlier, Ryan was thirty-two years old, lived on Eureka Street and listed his
occupation as businessman. Under intended beneficiary was the name Nick Trejo,
a twenty-two-year-old who lived at the same Eureka Street address. Beneath the
space for “beneficiary’s relationship to insured” was the word “roommate.”
Reading between the lines—two unrelated men, one older than the other, living
together in the heart of the city’s gay neighborhood—it was obvious Trejo was
Ryan’s lover and the older man had taken out the policy to provide for the
younger one in the event of his death.
“companion,” “friend,” “lover,” “partner.”
I thought about all those words, some innocuous, some salacious, and
always pronounced with a slight, mocking hesitation that simultaneously
acknowledged and dismissed the bond, the way Ruth Fleming had paused before
describing Nick Trejo as William Ryan’s “male companion.” A man joined to a
woman was a love story. A man joined to a man was a smutty joke. Well, at least
the company wasn’t trying to withhold payment because Trejo was Ryan’s lover as
it might have in an earlier time. That was progress, I guess.
called Brendan Scott, the insurance agent who had issued Ryan’s policy, from
the restaurant payphone and made an appointment to see him at three. That gave
me an hour to kill. What could I learn about William Ryan in that hour? It
occurred to me I could look up his obituary at the nearby city library.
Chu was working the cash register. She took my money and made change and I went
back to the booth and left a five for Adam who was back in the kitchen.
you tell Adam I said goodbye?” I asked Mrs. Chu on my way out. She smiled and
last of the city’s Indian summer had been washed away in a violent storm over
the weekend. The damp streets were filled with small tree branches and the
gutters were clogged with leaves. The gray sky cast a funereal pall across the
city where everything and everyone, cars, buses, streetcars, pedestrians,
seemed to move in slow motion. I pushed open the doors to the gloomy library
building with cold fingers. A reference librarian directed me to the fourth
floor reading room where back issues of magazines and newspapers were piled on
had died three weeks earlier. I pulled a month’s worth of issues of the city’s
gay newspaper and flipped through the first one to the obituaries. They took up
two pages, ranging in length from a full column to a couple of paragraphs, all
illustrated with thumbnail black and white photographs of the eulogized
men—they were all men—some no more than blurred snapshots, others studio
scanned the names and didn’t find William Ryan among them but I did see a
familiar face grinning at me from one of the photographs. Tom Rustin. He’d been
in his last month of residency at the halfway house when I’d arrived. I noticed
him immediately because he and I were the only guys at the house who weren’t
white. I remembered his imperturbability and how, when he spoke at a meeting,
he always began, “Hi, family.” Now he was dead: “Complications from HIV. His
only regret was not being able to pick up his nine-month AA chip at the Show of
leafed through three more issues of the paper and fifty-seven obits before I
found William Ryan’s notice. The accompanying photograph showed an attractive,
dark-haired man with light-colored eyes, a sharp nose and a forceful jaw,
wearing a dress shirt and tie, a phone pressed to his ear.
Bill Ryan was born on August 18, 1955, in Eden Plains,
Illinois. He came to San Francisco in 1971 and never left. He got an Associate
Arts degree from City College and worked as real estate agent with Bay Realty
before opening his own office in the Castro in 1977. Many of the neighborhood’s
Victorians were sold by Bill. In 1980, Bill turned his agency into the
successful property management company he was running at the time of his sudden
death. He is survived by his faithful office manager, Doris Chen, and his
partner of five years, Nicholas Trejo. In keeping with Bill’s wishes, there
will be no memorial.
took me a couple of readings to decode the terse notice. Bill Ryan was clearly
a guy in a hurry. He would only have been twenty-two when he started his own
real estate agency and got caught up in the boom years when gay men were
transforming a quiet Irish neighborhood called Eureka Valley into the epicenter
of the city’s gay life they renamed the Castro. Property management implied
property to manage which made me think he had not just been a seller but a
buyer. Like many other young men before him, going back to the Gold Rush, Ryan
had come to California to make his fortune.
was only eighteen when he uprooted himself from the Midwest and moved across
the county. Surely, his reason for such a dramatic migration wasn’t to attend a
community college or work in real estate, things he could have done anywhere.
No, I surmised that he, like thousands of other young men in the ’70s in
similar situations, had fled his small-minded Midwestern town for San Francisco
to find a community of his own kind. And, because he was so young, I had to
think there had been some serious trouble at home behind his move. The
likeliest scenarios were either that he’d been discovered and his family had
thrown him out, or, fearing imminent discovery, he’d run off before the shit hit
the fan and become another gay refugee in a city filled with us.
other refugees, however, it did not appear he had immersed himself in that
community. Their obituaries were filled with mention of gay clubs and groups to
which the men had belonged, gay charitable organizations in which they had been
active, and included long lists of surviving friends and personal messages of
grief from them. Nothing like that for Bill Ryan. A casual reader of his
circumspect death notice might not have even realized he was gay. Even the
mention of his lover, Nick Trejo, was cast as his “partner” suggesting a
professional rather than a personal relationship.
family was mentioned among his survivors, confirming my suspicion that he was
estranged from it. We were a generation of men who, when we had come out as
gay, had been stricken from our family trees, and become non-persons whose
names were spoken, if at all, in shamed whispers. Both my parents had died
before I had to come out to them, and my only sibling, my sister, Elena, was
also gay. But I did have uncles, aunts and cousins—none of whom I had seen
since my mother’s death a decade earlier because I hadn’t wanted to come out to
them. Maybe my Mexican, Catholic relatives would have been okay with a gay
nephew and cousin but more likely they would have been disgusted or appalled.
Even before my parents had died, and after I’d left home for school, I’d seen
my relatives so rarely, it hardly seemed worth risking rejection, so I drifted
away. The habit was so ingrained, I had even drifted away from my sister,
though she had probably saved my life.
Scott’s insurance agency was on the same block of Market Street as Ryan’s
property management company. Their two businesses were separated by a
dry-cleaners, a camera shop and a coffee shop where, Scott was telling me, the
two men sometimes met for coffee.
that Bill had much time for socializing,” Scott said. He was fiftyish, paunchy
and going gray but he had a salesman’s easy smile and twinkling eyes, as if he
was about to tell you a particularly good joke. “Nope, it was always business
with him. Terrible how he died, though I guess it was better than AIDS.”
does that mean?”
smile flickered off. “People would have thought he was one of those sleazy South
of Market guys hanging out in bathhouses with their legs up in the air and a
bottle of poppers stuffed up their nose.”
don’t think the virus limits itself to them,” I said mildly.
shrugged. “All I’m saying is Bill wasn’t like that. He was about the
straightest gay guy I knew. He worked long hours and then went home to Nick.”
know Nick Trejo?”
only met him a couple of times,” he corrected me. “Cute kid. Younger than
sold the policy to Bill.”
nodded. “Sure did. He came in one day out of the blue and said he wanted to
make sure Nick was taken care of if something happened to him. Lots of gay guys
do that, you know, to make sure there’s something for the boyfriend the family
can’t get to.” He frowned. “Of course, these days, with the virus, it’s getting
harder and harder to write a life insurance policy if the applicant’s gay.”
would your company know if someone’s gay?”
he replied. “If an application for life insurance comes out of certain zip
codes where there’s lots of gay men, the company rejects it.”
okay with you?”
he replied firmly. “It’s not. There are ways around it—” he paused. “I think I
better keep them to myself.”
I understand. Getting back to Bill Ryan’s policy. You filed the claim when he
died. Did Nick ask you to?”
shook his head. “I left him messages but he didn’t call back so I went ahead
and filed the claim to preserve his rights.”
you have any idea where he might be?”
no, but you let me know if you find him.”
course,” I said, standing up. I noticed the gay paper on his cluttered desk was
opened to the obituaries.
noticed me noticing it. “My granddad called the obits the old man’s sports
page. Didn’t think I’d be paying much attention to them before I was his age.”
times,” I said.
keep safe now,” he replied.
too late for that, I thought, but did not say, not wanting him to write me off
as one of those South of Market guys.
went around to Ryan’s office but the door was locked with a handwritten sign
taped to it: CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.
light drizzle fell from the darkening sky onto a narrow street in Hayes Valley
where I stood before the tumbled-down, uninhabited, nineteenth-century cottage
where Hugh Paris had lived. My lover. A recovering junkie, ex-rent boy, the
black sheep of a wealthy family, whose murder remained officially unsolved.
When I’d first returned here after leaving rehab, it was for evidence that Hugh
had really existed and not been simply a figment of my alcohol-soaked
imagination. In my mind, I walked myself up the creaky steps, through the door
and the oddly barren living room into the bedroom. There, on a mattress on the
floor, Billie Holiday crooning in the background, the damp sheet twisted around
our feet, we had what was now called unsafe sex but which, at the time, I had
thought of as making love. Standing there in the drizzle, I wondered if, in our
heedless exchange of fluids, one of us had passed the virus to the other. Not
that it mattered to Hugh. He lay beneath the snow in a Boston graveyard. He was
twenty-six when he was murdered and I remember thinking, how can that be? Who
dies that young? Now the city was filled with gay men wondering if they would
live to see thirty.
if I got sober just so AIDS could kill me, I asked Larry one particularly
anxious morning. Have you been sick, had any of the symptoms? he asked. No, I
said, but—He cut me off. If you start down the road of what ifs, it’s going to
lead you back to the bottle. I’m afraid, Larry. Afraid of what? A possibility?
Something that might never happen? It’s more of a probability, I said. Is it
happening today, he demanded with an asperity I realized later was a measure of
his own anxiety. No, I said. Then stop these fantasies and learn to live in
your body. What? You heard me, he said. Your mind lives in fear and regret but
your body can only live right now, in this moment. So, take some deep breaths
and live in your body. It’s a safer place to be than in your head.
drizzle turned into a cold, pelting rain. I opened my umbrella and headed home.
Was Bill Ryan’s death an accident? Henry Rios has his doubts. The first new Henry Rios novel in 20 years from six-time Lambda Literary award winner Michael Nava is a brilliantly plotted mystery that weaves together the gripping story of two gay men against the backdrop of 1980s San Francisco as the tsunami of AIDS bears down upon the city. Kirkus Review says: “Delivering an unusual subject and structure, this tale offers refreshing emotional depth and a gay narrative seldom seen in thrillers.”
Author, Michael Nava
Michael Nava is the author of an acclaimed series eight novels featuring gay, Latino criminal defense lawyer Henry Rios who The New Yorker, called “a detective unlike any previous protagonist in American noir.” The New York Times Book Review has called Nava “one of our best” writers. He is also the author of an award-winning historical novel, The City of Palaces, set at the beginning of the 1910 Mexican revolution. In addition, he is the writer/producer of the Henry Rios Mysteries Podcast which adapted the first Rios novel, Lay Your Sleeping Head into an 18-episode audio drama. In 2019, he also founded Persigo Press, through which he hopes to publish LGBTQ writers and writers of color who write genre fiction that combines fidelity to the conventions of their genre with exceptional literary merit.