We were up early, intending to beat the worst heat of the day. While Pete made breakfast, I went through the garage to get the newspaper and found it in its usual spot at the end of the driveway, encased in a plastic wrapper. I lowered the garage door behind me and joined the others on the patio, upturning the wrapper to allow the newspaper to slide onto the table beside Pete. As I did, a separate scrap of paper fluttered to the tile under my feet.
It appeared to be a lined sheet of notebook paper, folded into quarters. I bent down to pick it up, and Kevin scrambled to his feet. “Don’t touch it.”
I froze, halfway down, and craned my neck to look up at Kevin. “Why?”
“Because it shouldn’t be there. Where’s the nearest box of tissues?”
Pete said, “Guest bathroom.”
Kevin disappeared into the house. I straightened up but didn’t move. Pete, Kristen and I stared at the sheet of paper like it might explode. I said, “He’s just being abnormally cautious, right?”
Pete said, “Sure.”
Kristen said, “It’s probably just a note from your carrier.”
Kevin returned with the box and pulled two tissues out. He draped them over his fingers and picked up the paper, laid it on the table and carefully unfolded it.
The message was handwritten in capital letters with a red Sharpie.
NO QUERS IN ALAMOGORDO
GO BACK TO SANFRANSISCO
OR YOUL’L BE SORRY
Kristen sucked in a breath. I said, “Fuck.”
Pete moved beside Kevin, where he could study the note from the proper angle. Kevin asked him, “Thoughts?”
Pete’s tone was analytical. Detached. “Misspellings indicate lack of education. Use of the word queer indicates someone that’s too old or too out of the mainstream to realize that it’s not considered an insult anymore.”
Kevin said, “Do you know who’s friendly in the Alamogordo PD?”
Pete said, “Not yet. But Steve would.”
Pete went inside to call Steve. Kristen said, “This is outrageous.”
I pinched the bridge of my nose. “Dr. Cotton was right.”
Kevin said, “What?”
I told him and Kristen what my doctor had said. Pete stepped back onto the patio as I said, “Then he said, ‘be careful.’”
Kevin grunted. “Good advice, apparently.”
Pete said, “Steve’s calling a friend of his who’s a detective with APD. They’ll be here in about twenty minutes.”
Kristen said, “I’d better get dressed.” She went inside.
It was closer to a half hour later when Steve parked at the foot of our driveway, accompanied by a man in a separate car whom I’d never seen before. I opened the front door to them. Steve said, “This is Tobias Rice. Tobias, this is my brother-in-law, Jamie Brodie.”
Tobias Rice was about my size, a shaved-bald African-American man wearing an APD polo shirt, jeans, and a shoulder holster, and carrying what I figured was an evidence case. I shook his hand. “Thanks for coming.”
“Glad to help.” His voice was low but powerful. “Where is this note?”
“Right through here.” I led him into the house and to the patio.
Tobias greeted the others, then snapped on a pair of latex gloves and lifted the sheet of paper, examining it from all angles. “Tell me how you found this?”
I told him. He asked, “And this was when?”
“About 45 minutes ago.”
He thought out loud. “Newspapers are delivered around 5:00-5:30. You find it an hour or so later…”
Pete said, “Easy for someone to go unseen in the dark.”
“Yup.” Tobias nodded at Ammo. “The dog didn’t hear anything?”
I said, “The house was built to be soundproof.”
He unlatched his case and extracted a fingerprinting kit. Several minutes later, he had a full set of clear prints. “I’ll run these through IAFIS, see what pops. Anything else unpleasant happens, you call me direct.” He recited his number, which both Pete and I entered into our phones.
Pete saw Tobias out, then returned. Steve said, “Tobias is the only black cop in Otero County. His wife teaches math at the high school. They live down the street from me.”
I said, “I didn’t know that APD had any detectives. Why didn’t he come when we discovered the body?”
“He doesn’t have any training in homicide investigation. I think APD prefers to let the state police handle those cases. But he has plenty of experience in evidence collection.” Steve punched Pete lightly in the shoulder. “I’m late to work. See ya.”
Pete followed Steve outside. I turned to Kevin who was standing at the edge of the patio, his arms crossed, frowning at me. Behind him, Kristen was pacing. I said, “What the fuck?”
Kevin said, “This is unacceptable.”
“I’m open to suggestions. But there’s nothing we can do about it, is there? Other than calling the cops?”
Kristen was still pacing. “Maybe Jeff and Colin shouldn’t visit.”
Jeff and his eldest, my nephew Colin, were scheduled to visit next week, arriving the day after Kevin and Kristen left. I said, “Then the terrorists win.”
“True. But what if the attacks escalate?”
Pete came through the back door as she spoke. “They won’t.”
Kevin said, “You don’t know that.”
“No, but I can predict it. Whoever these people are, they’ve done the worst they can think of.”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Kevin waved his hand in the general direction of town. “This county is loaded with right-wing Second Amendment fans. You can’t say that someone isn’t out there planning a drive-by.”
Pete scoffed. “Seriously? This is a small town. Nobody’s going to try anything like that.”
“You think shit like that doesn’t happen in a small town? You grew up in a small town. You know how unpleasant the local yokels can be.”
I’d inched my way to stand beside Kristen, and we watched as Kevin and Pete argued. It was a new experience for me. Finally Pete said, “You’re overreacting.”
Kevin wasn’t done. “And you’re sticking your head in the sand. Don’t be naïve. Did you think this rural county would be gay-friendly? Would happily live and let live? Would give you a pass because you’re Steve’s brother? What do you think?”
Pete was attempting patience, but I could tell he was gritting his teeth. “I. Think. That. It. Will. Be. Fine.”
Kevin stared at Pete for a minute, and I realized something that I never had before. I’d thought them equal in terms of intimidation factor, but I’d been wrong.
In a contest of wills, Kevin would always win.
Kevin lowered his voice. “You and Jamie can take care of yourselves. But I am not going to allow Jeff and Colin to walk into the middle of a dangerous situation.”
“That should be Jeff’s decision.”
“It will be, as soon as I explain it to him.” Kevin strode into the house, closing the patio door firmly behind him.
Pete said, to no one in particular, “He’s overreacting.”
I said, “I’m not convinced of that.”
He shifted his gaze to me. “You, too?”
“Pete. We’ve been threatened. Sure, it might not happen again, but I agree with Kev. I’m not willing to risk Colin to that chance.”
Kristen looked back and forth between us. I waited. Finally Pete blew out a deep breath. “I’m going for a walk.”
Kristen said, “I need a drink.”
I said, “Me, too.”
When we went into the house, Kevin was in the family room, pacing just as Kristen had, while he talked to Jeff. Kristen and I got bottles of Coke from the fridge and cracked them open. I was taking a long drink when Kevin came into the kitchen, holding out his phone. “He wants to talk to you.”
I took the phone and said, “Hey.”
Jeff said, “Is Kev overreacting?”
“Pete thinks so. I don’t necessarily agree.”
He sighed. “Colin was super excited about coming to Alamogordo again.”
“I know. It’s your decision.”
“I’ll talk to Val tonight. We’ll let you know.”
“And for God’s sake, be careful.”
“I will. Don’t tell Dad about any of this.”
I said goodbye and handed the phone back to Kevin. “He and Val will discuss and decide.”
Kevin said softly, “I’m not overreacting.”
“I know.” I set my bottle on the counter and rubbed my face. “This whole adventure was originally my idea, you know.”
Kristen asked, “How so?”
“When we inherited the money and I first thought of building a second home, same-sex marriage wasn’t legal at the federal level yet. But it was already recognized here in New Mexico.” I counted on my fingers. “My criteria were no earthquakes, no wildfire, and that our marriage would be valid. And Steve was here, and all the elements necessary for solar and geothermal living. It seemed perfect.”
Kristen said, “Eventually, it’ll be all right. I think. But it’ll be easier if you rapidly establish yourselves as Those Who Must Not Be Fucked With.”
Kevin snorted. “You’ll enjoy that.”
I clinked my bottle against his. “Hell, yeah.”
Jamie Brodie is feeling unsettled. His boss has asked him to take an unpaid furlough for the summer; his husband, Pete Ferguson, is obsessed with genealogy research and has papered the walls of their townhouse with family trees; and his father-in-law, Jack, is experiencing odd side effects from a new medication.
Pete wants to head straight for their second home in New Mexico at the beginning of Jamie’s furlough. Jamie has misgivings, but agrees. On their first morning in Alamogordo, Jamie discovers a dead teenager in the street across from their house. The findings in the victim’s autopsy report are deeply disturbing, and the victim’s identification leads Jamie to a jarring discovery.
Several days later, someone leaves a note inside Jamie and Pete’s morning newspaper. NO QUEERS IN ALAMOGORDO.
As the anonymous homophobic attacks continue, Jamie’s determination to stand his ground solidifies. But someone out there is equally determined to push Jamie and Pete out of town, and is willing to take extreme measures to achieve his goal.
More About Author, Meg Perry
Learn more about author Meg Perry and her Jamie Brodie Mystery series via her website:
From Meg’s website:
“I’ve been writing the Jamie Brodie Mysteries since June 2012. Hard to believe! Jamie is (like me) an academic librarian. Not like me, he’s a gay man, a Rhodes Scholar, a rugby player, a son, brother, uncle…and boyfriend (eventually, husband). Jamie’s boyfriend (eventual husband) is psychology professor Pete Ferguson, and they share a townhouse in Santa Monica, CA.”