2014 Lambda Literary Award Finalist – Gay Mystery
Pretty Boy Dead named one of Jessewave’s Top Picks 2013
Pretty Boy Dead by Jon Michaelsen – Lethe Press
“One of the best gay mysteries I’ve read in a long time. It leaps ahead of so many books in this genre on the strength of its suspense and depth of its characters, and stayed with me long after the last chapter.” — Chris Beakey, author of Double Abduction, Lambda Literary Award finalist, Double Abduction.
A murdered male stripper. A missing go-go dancer. A city councilman on the hook. Can Atlanta homicide detective Sergeant Kendall Parker solve the vicious crime while remaining safely hidden behind the closet door?
When the body of a young man is found in a popular midtown park, police and local media are quick to pin the brutal killing on a homeless gay kid with AIDS. But homicide detective Sgt. Kendall Parker isn’t so convinced, even when the suspect is accused of assaulting another police detective with a deadly weapon.
City leaders want the murder solved yesterday and jump at the chance to pin the crime on the drug-craving teen. It’s an election year, so remaining in office is their top priority, even at the sacrifice of the young man. Sgt. Parker isn’t so persuaded and is determined to prove Hopper’s innocence, despite the protest of his colleagues, and threatening the deep secret Parker has carefully hidden from his comrades for years.
The call came through Sergeant Kendall Parker’s cell during his regular morning coffee run to the Landmark diner on Cheshire Bridge. 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 to Piedmont Road 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 had provided no identification or apparent cause of death. Dumped several days ago, the body had washed downstream after last night’s heavy spring rain.
Turning east onto 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 badge 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 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 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 stuck out his badge again.
“Anyone touched the body?”
“No sir,” the man called as he shielded his eyes from the sun with an upraised arm and stood to meet the sergeant. “Ain’t let nobody down there, sir,” he said, jutting out his chin toward the corpse below. “Waitin’ for the MPO.” He followed along, becoming alarmed when Parker didn’t stop. “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 appeared wrapped in a type of overcoat, raincoat, or dark canvas outerwear. A strong odor often associated with a bloated corpse drifted 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. I won’t touch a thing,” he said, cursing the cop under his breath. Damn rookie.
The officer’s faced 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 and withdrew a pocket notepad that was as much a part of him as the badge he had clipped on his belt. He 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 area 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 large 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.
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.
Find Jon Michaelsen on the web:
Lethe Press: http://tinyurl.com/Lethe-Press-Pretty-Boy-Dead