Atmosphere (The Blake Harte Mysteries Book 9) by Robert Innes

Excerpt

“Tell me about the woman.”

“What do you want to know?”

“Well, what does she look like?”

Blake Harte leaned back in his chair and stared up at the ceiling with a sigh.

“Old. She was an old woman. White hair, wrinkled face, shrivelled up old mouth.”

“And it’s the exact same woman from the events we spoke about when you were a child?”

Linda Forrest scribbled something onto her clipboard and then looked back up at Blake.

“Yes,” replied Blake. “It’s the same woman from when I was a kid because it’s the same nightmare I’ve had ever since I was a kid.”

Linda nodded as she continued writing. “And when these dreams started again, how long had it been since the last one?”

“When I was at university, quite a few years ago.”

“And since then?”

Blake clasped his hands together in his lap and wrung them together slightly. He absolutely hated discussing the nightmares in such detail as this.

“Since I had the first one a few months ago, I’ve been experiencing them at least once a week. Sometimes twice. I even had one last night and apparently I woke up my partner, because I was crying out, which is impressive as normally he can sleep through an earthquake.”

There was silence for a few moments as Linda finished writing her notes and then placed the clipboard on the table between them.

Blake studied her. She was a dumpy woman with kind looking blue eyes. He could not help but wonder if she was a grandmother, because Blake could imagine that she would be incredibly good at it. She had just the right level of calm serenity about her but at the same time appeared ever so slightly stern. Overall, he conceded, she seemed to be the right sort of person to be a therapist.

“Okay,” Linda said. “Let’s talk about the actual dream itself. What happens?”

Blake shuffled in his seat but said nothing. The room they were in was hot, and he could feel sweat trickling down his back, similar to how he felt whenever the nightmare woke him up.

“Come on, Blake,” Linda pressed gently. “I know it’s difficult, but I need you to tell me what happens.”

Blake took a deep breath. “It’s like I said. When I was ten, I broke into an old house on my street. It had been abandoned for years, but me being a young tearaway, I had to explore it. I had a mate that I used to have dares with, Tommy, and he dared me to go and find out what was going on inside the house.”

“And nobody had been in or out of this house for years?” Linda asked him, leaning forward.

“Not that I saw,” Blake replied, shuffling slightly in his seat. “Though, I was only ten. My parents always said that it may as well have been knocked down as they had lived there for years before I was even born, and they had never seen anybody.”

“So, you get inside the house?”

“Yes,” Blake continued. “The whole place was locked up and the only way inside was through a tiny window around the back of the house. I was a skinny child; I mean I wouldn’t call myself exactly large now, but as a kid, I was like a rake. Even I struggled squeezing through it, but I eventually found myself inside the house. I wish I’d taken the difficulty in getting in as a sign to stop being so stupid, but what can I say? I was ten.”

“Okay,” Linda said. “And what did you find once you had managed to get inside?”

Blake sighed again as his eyes landed on the large fish tank in the corner. There was a small fish fluttering weakly around the surface of the water, looking as if it was in its last moments of its life.

“Blake?”

“The room was dark,” Blake said quietly. “Pitch black, actually. I had to scramble around to find the light switch. Then, when I finally turned it on, there she was.”

“And what was she doing?”

“Not a lot,” Blake replied dryly. “She was dead. She was sitting in a rocking chair with a knife sticking in her back. There was a pool of blood beneath the chair. And I couldn’t move. I was so terrified staring at her face. It was like someone had frozen her in the middle of the most horrified scream imaginable. I mean, she had just been stabbed in the back, so I guess it’s understandable, but it was the most horrific thing I’d ever seen.”

“So, you were frozen, in your mind trapped, unable to escape with this traumatic sight in front of you?” Linda clarified.

“Basically, yes. After what must have only been about a minute or so, but it felt like hours, I finally managed to get back the use of my legs and got out of there. Then I ran home and my mum called the police.”

“You’re a policeman now, aren’t you?” Linda asked. “Do you think this event had anything to do with that?”

Blake had wondered that himself over the years. “No, I don’t think so. Though, being a police detective did mean that I was able to find out details about the case a few years later.”

“And what did you discover?”

“Not a great deal,” Blake replied. “I know they found out her name was Julia Watkins. She was, according to her pension book, eighty-seven, and they also discovered that she had been squatting in the house for months. I suppose it’s unavoidable with old abandoned buildings. But as for her death, it was never solved. The only way in and out was through that tiny window that even I had difficulty climbing through. Other than that, the house was completely sealed.”

Linda scratched the back of her head as she consulted her notes. “It’s the sort of thing you’ve become quite used to, haven’t you? These sorts of impossible events.”

Blake shrugged. “I suppose so. I have been kept busy since moving to Harmschapel, that’s certainly true.”

“A lot of murders?”

“I’ve had my fair share,” Blake conceded. “Not that I didn’t get them when I worked in Sale.”

“That’s Sale in the Manchester area, where you used to live before moving to Harmschapel?”

“That’s right.”

“I’ve seen a lot in the papers about some of the cases you’ve had to deal with since moving to the area,” Linda said thoughtfully. “ And of course, you helped bring a serial killer to justice in the earlier days of your career.”

Blake shuddered at the memory. “Yeah. Thomas Frost.”

“I read about him,” Linda said, nodding. “He strangled a number of women in the Manchester area and you were the officer that helped put him behind bars?”

“Probably the closest I’ve come to experiencing evil,” Blake replied quietly. “The man is a psychopath. I had the unpleasant experience of meeting him again not so long ago. He hadn’t changed.”

“All in all, that must be incredibly stressful, especially when you’re dealing with bodies. Murdered bodies at that.”

Blake’s mouth was starting to feel dry. He leant forwards and took a sip of water from the plastic cup next to him.

“It can be,” he replied. “That’s the job. Sadly, being a police officer isn’t all about catching people who have stolen the church collection money or handing out parking tickets for vehicles parked on the village green. Sometimes life happens, and life can be pretty brutal sometimes.”

“Do you think that could have had an effect? Stabbings, shootings, strangulations, you’re only human after all.” She smiled kindly at him, then glanced at the clock on the wall. “Have a think about it. We’re coming to a close now for the first session, but I think we’ve covered some really helpful details today.”

Blake was doubtful. As he thanked Linda and left the office, he could not help wondering exactly what she could possibly do to prevent him having bad dreams, especially as they stemmed from an event that had actually happened to him. There was no way to try and make sense of it, it was a traumatic experience that had clearly stuck with him and no amount of therapy was going to change that.

As he climbed into his car, he lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, briefly chastising himself for his lack of self-control when it came to smoking. He had been trying to quit for a long time, but recently, even Blake had to admit that he had basically become a full-time smoker again.

With a heavy sigh, he turned the key in the ignition and began driving back towards Harmschapel, the image of the screaming old woman flashing into his mind’s eye briefly as he pulled out of the car park.

Blurb:

There’s no such thing as magic. Everything has a logical explanation, even when you can’t immediately see it. Nothing is impossible when looked at from the right angle.

Blake Harte has always lived by this mantra. It’s an attitude that has fared him well in Harmschapel after being faced with numerous bizarre murders and situations. But Blake’s beliefs are soon to be tested to breaking point when touring magician, Sebastian Klein, arrives in the village with his daughter, and glamorous assistant, Amelia, to perform their touring magic show.

Although reluctant to even watch the show, Blake and the rest of Harmschapel Police are soon called into action when Sebastian Klein performs the most baffling trick of his career. Just how many ways are there for a woman to completely vanish in front of an audience, especially when even the great Sebastian Klein has no explanation for what happened?

What initially looks like a big theatrical stunt soon leads Blake and the team to one of the darkest and most sinister cases they have ever come across. The disappearance of Amelia Klein threatens to explode in the ugliest way possible, and there is no way of telling just how many secrets she could expose if found…

Buy links:
UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07L43NR4N/ref=series_rw_dp_sw
US: https://www.amazon.com/Atmosphere-Blake-Harte-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L43NR4N/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/43126026-atmosphere?from_search=true

Want to know more about the author? Click the image of Robert Innes to reach his website!

Robert Innes is the author of The Blake Harte Mysteries – a series of head scratching and impossible crimes. When he’s not trying to work out how to commit seemingly perfect murders and building up a worrying Google search history, Robert can be found at his local slimming group, wondering why eating three pizzas in the space of a week hasn’t resulted in a weight loss. Since the creation of the Blake Harte mystery series in November 2016, each book has become a best seller in LGBT mystery both in the USA and the UK.

Exclusive Excerpt: Gay Noir (three noir mysteries with a gay twist) by Olivier Bosman

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT:

Mrs Skinner rushed into my office in her hat and furs, pulled up a chair and sat down at my desk. “Have you got the pictures?” she said.

“Well, good morning to you, Mrs Skinner,” I responded.

“Never mind all that!” she snapped back. “Have you got the pictures?” She took off her hat and fur and slammed them on my desk.

“Have you got the money?”

“Pictures first!”

I shook my head. “I need to know that you have the money before I show you the pictures.”

She looked at me and frowned. She grabbed her handbag and rummaged in it for her chequebook.

“How much was it again?” she asked, opening her chequebook and taking a pen out of her bag.

“Four hundred pounds,” I said. “And I want cash.”

She looked up, surprised. “You said three hundred and fifty.”

“The price has gone up.”

“Why?”

“Turns out there’s a bit more to your husband’s affair than meets the eye.”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you have the cash or not?”

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Mrs Skinner replaced her chequebook and pen in her bag, took out her purse and started counting the money in it. “I have three hundred and fifty pounds,” she said, “as that’s what we agreed on. I can owe you the rest.”

“Show me.”

She rolled her eyes in irritation, but she eventually took the notes out of her purse and laid them on the desk.

“Are you happy now, Mr Stone?” she said. “Do you think you can show me the pictures now?”

“I am, and I can.”  I opened the desk drawer and retrieve the pictures. “I’ll show you the pictures now,” I said, opening the brown envelope, “but I should warn you, it’s not a pretty sight.”

“Just get on with it.”

I placed the pictures on the desk one by one and closely watched her face as I did so. It was rigid and emotionless.

“What’s this?” she said after I had placed the final picture on the desk. She was looking at me, frowning with confusion.

“That’s your husband,” I said.

“Who is that other person with him?”

“That is the man he’s been having an affair with.”

“That is not a man!”

“I think you’ll find he is.” I pointed at a certain part of Lenny’s anatomy.

“What are you suggesting?”

“I’m not suggesting anything.”

“Are you suggesting that my husband is a homosexual?”

“I’m not suggesting anything, Mrs Skinner. I let the pictures do the speaking.” I picked up the photo of Skinner eagerly swallowing Lenny’s cock and placed it on top of the other ones.

“My husband is not a homosexual!” she said, jumping up from her chair. “He is the son of an Anglican priest! That picture is a fake! Where is the man’s head?”

“I cut his head off, Mrs Skinner. There’s no need for you to know who the man is.”

“I’m not paying for those pictures! They are not what I asked for!”

“That’s fine. Then I won’t give them to you.” I picked up the photos, slipped them back in the envelope and locked the envelope in my drawer.

Mrs Skinner remained standing over my desk. Her body trembled with rage and her face began to contort. Finally, the emotion became too much for her and she burst into tears. She sat back down and buried her head in her hands. I admit I did feel a tinge of pity for her. I pulled the handkerchief out of my breast pocket and handed it to her.

“Thank you,” she said softly and began drying her tears. “This is so humiliating! I should never have married him. My father warned me not to marry outside my faith. We’re Catholics. This would never have happened if I had married a Catholic.”

I didn’t say anything.

“You will have to burn the pictures,” she said. “No one must see what I’ve seen.”

“You can burn them yourself if you pay for them.”

“There!” She threw the bank notes at me. “There’s your cursed money!”

“What about the other fifty pounds you still owe me?”

“I’ll come back with it another day.”

“How can I be sure?”

She looked at me indignantly. “I think you can trust me, Mr Stone.”

“I don’t trust anyone.”

“Well, what do you want me to do?”

I looked at her earrings. “Are those real pearls?”

“My pearls?” She put her hands to her earrings and stared at me with shock. “Are you serious? You want my pearls? Don’t you think I’ve been humiliated enough?”

“Hey, lady, I’ve got a business to run here.”

She took off her earrings and flung them at me. “Have the blessed pearls, you hard-hearted swine!”

I picked up the earrings and put them in my pocket. Then I opened the drawer, took out the envelope and handed it to her. She yanked it out of my hands, picked up her hat and fur and jumped out of her chair. “I hope I never see you again!” She marched out of the office.

“It was a pleasure doing business with you, Mrs Skinner,” I called after her, but she didn’t hear me.

BLURB:
Inspired by the pulp fiction novels of the 1940’s and 50’s, the novellas in this anthology emulate the dark, thrilling, sensational and taboo breaking stories of the post war era and gives them a gay twist.
The Honeytrap

1950’s London. Felix Stone is an openly gay P.I. He is approached by a mysterious woman who pays him to shadow her husband. What at first seems to be a run of the mill adultery case, soon turns out to be much more serious. When the people involved in the case suddenly start dying around him, Felix finds himself embroiled in the world of cold war espionage and his own life is put in danger.

The Deluded

1949. The East End of London is still recovering from the blitz. Fitzgerald O’Sullivan is a young man with romantic notions of living like an impoverished writer. In an attempt to escape his past, he abandons his life of privilege and rents a room in the East End. There he meets Roy Parker, a chirpy Cockney with a working-class charm. Roy asks Fitz to write a story about how he saved the lives of two Jewish ladies during the war. What follows is a far-fetched tale filled with lies and exaggerations. This is is a noir thriller where nothing is what it seems. A dark tale of love, bitterness and vengeance set in the chaotic aftermath of the Second World War

Estranged

1950´s L.A. Sixteen year old Henry Blomqvist is the son of an aspiring actress and stepson of a millionaire businessman. He is an embarrasement to his parents, a useless layabout who is constantly getting arrested for cruising the parks. But his vices pale in comparison with the dark secrets in his parents´ lives. The kidnapping of Henry´s stepfather triggers a series of events which expose the skeletons in his parents´ closets and which finally give Henry the chance to step up to the mark and show what he´s really made of.

ebook link: (Releasing December 4th, 2018 via Amazon & FREE via Kindle Unlimited)

Paperback link: (Currently Available)

Olivier Bosman’s Bio: 

click on image for website

Born to Dutch parents and raised in Colombia and England, I am a rootless wanderer with itchy feet. I’ve spent the last few years living and working in The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Sudan and Bulgaria, but I have every confidence that I will now finally be able to settle down among the olive groves of Andalucia.

I am an avid reader and film fan (in fact, my study is overflowing with my various dvd collections!)

I did an MA in creative writing for film and television at the University of Sheffield.  After a failed attempt at making a carreer as a screenwriter, I turned to the theater and wrote and produced a play called ´Death Takes a Lover´ (which has since been turned into the first D.S.Billings Victorian Mystery). The play was performed on the London Fringe to great critical acclaim.

​Currently living in Spain where I make ends meet by teaching English .

Exclusive Excerpt: The Lawyer Who Leapt (Daytona Beach Book 2) by Frank W. Butterfield

Excerpt:

“Do you have any idea where the place is?” asked Ronnie as he worked at keeping the car on the road. As if from out of nowhere, the wind had kicked up and was blowing Tom’s Buick around the road a bit.

“The judge said they moved the law school out to the airport. I don’t know where, exactly, but it shouldn’t be that hard to find.” He paused and then added, “Howie sent a telegram this morning from Savannah.”

Ronnie whistled. “That was fast. Everything OK?”

“Sounded like it. He mentioned he was keeping his promise to send us one every day.”

Ronnie nodded. “He’s a good kid.”

“He sure is,” said Tom.

click on image to purchase

Ronnie burped. “Sorry ’bout that. I shouldn’t have had onions on my burger back at lunch. They always repeat on me.” He burped again.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Tom look over at him and smile. “You know, you always say that every time you have onions on anything. But you always have onions.”

Ronnie grinned. He wanted to reach over and put his hand on Tom’s face and pull his pal in close, but he had to keep both hands on the wheel to make sure they stayed on the road. He glanced over and quickly winked at Tom, who blushed.

Neither man said anything for a moment. Then Ronnie asked, “Is that why you love me?”

Tom stiffened, or so Ronnie thought.

. . .

“Is that why you love me?”

Tom could barely believe what he was hearing. How could Ronnie ask him a question like that at a time like this? Tom was doing the best he could to hold his reputation together. Witness tampering was a serious offense and he was looking at serious prison time if he was convicted on the hearsay rumors floating around town that he’d sent Inez Johnson back to New York by bribing her, or whatever they were saying.

He had enough to think about without worrying what Ronnie was going to do next. His friend had always been impulsive. That was what made him so attractive, besides the fact that he was handsome, in an odd sort of way, and was thickly built with plenty of muscles popping out everywhere, something Tom always found attractive in a man.

Staring out at the ribbon of highway that was passing below them in the wind-blown car, Tom thought about their time together the night before and how passionate things had been. That was another thing that attracted him to Ronnie. The man was relaxed when it came to carnal matters. He was friendly and passionate and gentle, while also being driven and almost single-minded in his desire to know that Tom was enjoying himself. It had always been that way.

In the few encounters of a similar nature that Tom had during his time in the Army, he’d been shocked at how selfish other men could be. They seemed to want to be satisfied but had no interest in the sort of quiet conversation intermingled with passionate lovemaking that Tom had always loved having with Ronnie and Sarah, both.

Sarah.

What would she think if she knew what they got up to in the bed she had slept in before she died? Would she be repelled? Disgusted?

Ronnie claimed that she had given her blessing to their fooling around. And, on those nights when she wasn’t home, having taken Missy over to the Gulf Coast to spend a few days with relatives who didn’t like Tom, he and Ronnie would fool around in that bed. But they had never slept together. And Tom had always made sure to change the sheets before Sarah got home.

He couldn’t really imagine the conversation she had with Ronnie about all that. He’d claimed that she’d invited him over for dinner and, while drinking beer, had admitted she knew all about how they felt about each other. He even claimed, Ronnie had, that she had blessed their fooling around.

Tom sighed. He wavered back and forth about whether to believe Ronnie on that score. It seemed both highly unlikely and exactly what Sarah would have done. There had been a number of occasions, during their marriage, when she had kindly sat down with him and told him she knew what he was up to and it didn’t bother her at all. He couldn’t remember the specific things—they had all been small, household sorts of things—but he could easily picture her open and frank expression as she looked right at Ronnie and said something like, “I know you’re in love with Tom as much as I am.”

The sudden intensity of that thought shocked him. Of course she had said that to Ronnie. He didn’t know how he knew, but he did. He could feel in it his bones. Over the sound of the tires on the road and the slight moaning of the wind as it buffeted the car around, he could hear her next sentence, “And I know Tom loves you in a way he could never love me.”

That thought made him jump in his seat.

“You OK, buddy?”

Blurb:

It’s Wednesday morning, September 24th to be precise, and Tom Jarrell is in love. He’s walking through the tree-covered streets of Daytona Beach, on his way to work, and thinking about the wonderful night he just spent. But, when he gets to the office, he realizes he has a few things that need to be done. For one, he needs to file an affidavit in a murder trial, but he’s never done any such thing, so he heads off to his old law school to meet with his favorite professor from before the war to get some much-needed advice. And, while there, he gets much more than he was expecting. Meanwhile, Ronnie Grisham is in trouble with his landlady. He hasn’t slept in his boarding house bed for two nights and she just read her cards last night. Change is coming. Could the cards be pointing to Ronnie? As for Marveen Dodge, her suspicions about what is really going on at the law office of Tom Jarrell, Esquire, is like a simmering pot that could boil over at any moment. And, Alice Watson is doing just fine, thank you very much, and looking forward to a nice Saturday at the beach with her girl. But, none of them expects what happens next as two mysterious girls arrive in town, suitcases in hand… And an unexpected trial gets underway… Read about all of this, and more, in the case of THE LAWYER WHO LEAPT.

click on image for website

Author Frank W. Butterfield:

Frank W. Butterfield is the Amazon best-selling author of over 20 books and counting in the Nick Williams Mystery series, stories about Nick & Carter, a private dick and a fireman who live and love in San Francisco.

Beginning in 1953, the series follows their adventures as they deal with the wide-ranging consequences of publicly outing themselves long before the term existed.

Refusing to back down, Nick & Carter begin to build a life where they use their resources to help their family as much as they possibly can.

For Nick & Carter, family is a broad term that includes the ones they were both born into as well as the one they choose: the men and women they know, meet, and grow closer to along the way.

Their stories range from the deeply intimate to the broadly political as they move through the changes in American and global culture from the stultifying sameness of the 50s through the tumultuous transformation of the 60s and the chaotic confusion of the 70s.

As time rolls by and their love deepens, they eventually find themselves able to legally marry in the summer of 2008 at the ages of 84 and 86, respectively.

No one will be as surprised as Nick & Carter when that amazing day finally arrives.

To learn more about Frank W. Butterfield’s novels, Nick & Carter and their ongoing adventures, please click the link before for his website.

https://www.frankwbutterfield.com/

Exclusive Excerpt: The Bellingham Mystery Series Volume 2 by Nicole Kimberling

Excerpt:

To Peter, Samuel Powers was an excellent example of how weird New York style looks on people who are not physically in New York at the time. He wore a V-neck tee with a too-small blazer, cropped chinos, and polished brown loafers with no socks. His bare, tanned ankles dared the world to question his well-examined casualness. He would have looked amazing if he’d been walking through Central Park, holding some kind of whey-enriched smoothie. But sitting in the main offices of the Hamster, surrounded by mismatched office furniture, he just looked like he’d been beamed there from a cooler future—the victim of a science-fiction transporter accident.

At the same time, he looked vaguely familiar. But that might have been because he looked like every other handsome, stylish guy from New York.

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“I’m sorry I kept you waiting.” Peter extended his hand, and Sam shook it with exactly the right amount of manly pressure and eye contact familiar enough that Peter felt certain that this couldn’t be their first meeting. He considered attempting to fake it—go in for a hug, or air-kiss even, just to take it to the next level—but decided against it. It was far too hot to hug, and he’d never been a kissy guy. “I’m sorry, but have we met before?”

Sam pulled a wide, perfectly toothed smile and said, “I came to your wedding three years ago.”

Now it all fell into place. Sam had attended their wedding as Nick’s agent, Donna’s, date.

The wedding itself had been such a blur—not just because he’d been excited and stressed by the first mingling of his and Nick’s respective families but because one of their guests had attempted to murder Nick. Lesser details of the occasion, like the names of their non-murdering guests, had largely slipped through the cracks of Peter’s memory.

“I’m so sorry.” Peter felt a line of red creeping up the back of his neck. “Please sit down.”

“It’s all right. I don’t think we spoke much beyond the congratulations.” Sam seated himself and then leaned in, elbows on Peter’s none-too-clean desk. “So the reason I’m here is that I’m working on a book and I was hoping I might convince you to help me. It’s about the Werks Collective.”

Peter ran down a list of every collective, commune, and co-op he could recall operating in greater Whatcom County, but nothing rang a bell and he said so.

“It’s the artists’ collective that Walter de Kamp was part of in New York.”
At the mention of that name Peter’s naturally ebullient heart cooled to a dull simmer.
Of course Sam wanted to talk about Walter de Kamp, Nick’s first lover—the ghost who just

wouldn’t stay down. Every time Peter thought he and Nick had finally broken free of the specter, he rose up to complicate their lives, bringing with him secrets and lies and old history.

“I’m afraid I can’t help you,” Peter said. “I never met the man. And before you even ask, Nick won’t be interviewed about him at all. Ever. Period.”

“Oh, I wasn’t hoping to interview Mr. Olson.” Sam held up his hands as if to show himself innocent of such notions. “I only hoped to have a closer look at a few of the paintings that you two have at your house. I’m specifically interested in the blue landscape in the dining room. It is such an amazing piece. Ever since I saw it three years ago it’s been on my mind.”

“Haunting you?” Peter asked. He couldn’t help it.

“In a way yes,” Sam said, apparently in complete seriousness. “I would be so grateful if you would just let me have another look at it.”

Peter weighed the request. Although it would annoy Nick to have someone in the house, maybe if Sam could publicize the painting, there might be enough interest in it that Nick would finally auction the thing off. After that last piece of Walter’s art had gone, Peter could hire an exorcist, and the spirit of Walter could be laid to rest. He could just picture it: a tall, thin man in a priest’s collar standing before his house, the Castle at Wildcat Cove, eyes pressed closed, whispering in Latin… For an instant, Peter nearly succumbed to his long-standing bad habit of writing the scene out in his head, but Sam had already gathered up his things and started for the door.

“Is it all right if we take my car?” he was saying. That took a moment for Peter to process. Finally, feeling stupid, he said, “You want to go now?”
“If you’re free,” Sam returned. Peter glanced across the office at Doug, who had been

observing the entire exchange. Doug gave a silent shrug, which Peter interpreted as a go-ahead. “Let me just take a leak before we head out,” Peter said. Sam magnanimously agreed to wait in the car while Peter took the opportunity of the lone stall in the men’s room to fact-check

Sam’s story.
Years ago, before he’d met Nick and taken up amateur sleuthing, Peter would have gotten

into Sam’s car on the strength of his handshake alone. But experience had made him wary of riding in cars with random strangers, well-dressed or not.

Sam Powers’ web page was everything Peter would have wanted for his own. Clear, organized, full of stylish fonts and praise about his writing from the New York Times and the Guardian. It also contained a full bibliography of Sam’s previously published book titles, three of which involved crimes that were related to the art world.

That hurt most of all.

Though Peter had written thousands of articles and even won a national award for journalism, he didn’t have even a single book with his name on the spine. He’d started numerous times, attempting to cobble together a concept that would hold his interest long enough to pitch it to an editor, but after a couple of days’ research into this or that subject he’d lose interest, get depressed, and eventually degenerate into writing fiction.

Bad fiction.

Peter’s narratives brimmed with irrelevant commentary on modern life and lacked in any sort of dramatic tension. He’d even attempted to write pornography, then given up, realizing how hard it was to be shocking in a world where a book about the gay X-rated exploits of were- dinosaurs who strove to control the Freemasons could actually get good reviews.

Now here came Sam Powers, flaunting his ability to stave off boredom by writing incisive long-form prose. Peter had half a mind to crawl out the window but turned instead to Sam’s social media pages, where he found, to his delight, that Sam did have some detractors after all.

Several citizen reviewers called him pretentious and unprincipled. Others disliked his tendency toward wild speculation.

In fact, a brief perusal of Sam’s bio led Peter to believe that Sam was some kind of alternate version of himself—the self that made different choices. Sam’s natal city was the unfortunately named Boring, Oregon—a city whose main claims to fame were having an accidentally funny name and a series of unsolved serial rapes in the late nineties. Whereas in comparison, Peter’s hometown of Bellingham had hosted a great number of actual serial killers in addition to a funny unofficial town motto: City of Subdued Excitement.

Though they both originated in small towns in the Pacific Northwest, Sam had lit out for the Big Apple immediately, whereas Peter had attended the local state university. Where Peter had traveled on his own and taken a long time to settle into writing, Sam landed a magazine gig straight out of private college.

Last, Sam’s Facebook page showed him to be almost relentlessly single up to the point that he started dating Donna, opposite of serial monogamist Peter. Yet the subjects they wrote about and even their writing style seemed eerily similar, like a literary doppelgänger or…evil twin.

So Sam checked out as a legit writer, not a serial killer, hired assassin, or art thief.

And despite the mad jealousy he might feel at Sam’s various awesome book deals, the classy thing to do would be to help him out with his research.

Purchase The Bellingham Mystery Series Volume 2 here:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07J1J49JB/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i5

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/899279

Learn more about author, Nicole Kimberling: 

click photo for Nicole Kingerling’s websiteNicole Kimberling is a novelist and the editor at Blind Eye Books. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award. Other works include the Bellingham Mystery Series, set in the Washington town where she resides with her wife of thirty years and an ongoing cooking column for Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. She is also the creator and writer of “Lauren Proves Magic is Real!” a serial fiction podcast, which explores the day-to-day case files of Special Agent Keith Curry, supernatural food inspector.

Criminal Past (Hazard and Somerset Book 6) by Gregory Ashe

Exclusive Excerpt:

Hazard ran. His left arm flopped painfully at his side, phone in his fingers, and his right hand held the .38. He tried to dial, but those fingers were slow and less responsive, and even when Somers’s name came on the screen, the signal was too weak, and the call wouldn’t go through. Swearing, Hazard dove into the darkness. That was what it was like: diving. He would reach the edge of the light, granular, sabulous, like land meeting water, and then he was beyond it, in the darkness, his legs churning to carry him towards that next buoy of light.

Where would the cops drop their guard? Where would they feel a renewed spurt of energy and determination? At the end of the building. At the exit. Where the shooter would linger just long enough to be spotted.

Somers.

Oh fuck.

Somers was faster than Hazard.

Oh fuck.

At the end of the corridor, Hazard was running too fast. He tried to slide into the turn, taking the corner as fast as he could, but he was moving too damn fast. He didn’t fall, and his brain whispered a brief thank you to fate, but he crashed into the far wall, his full weight pinning his bad arm against the drywall. Pain went up like a signal flare. Gasping, Hazard pushed himself off the wall and down the hall.

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He could see the exit ahead. The door was propped open, and silver daylight framed the opening. In front of that illuminated backdrop, a silhouette moved, fumbling with the door. That was part of the act; an unspoken justification, in case the cops wondered how they’d been lucky enough to catch up with the shooter. Here was the answer, being pantomimed for them: the idiot got stuck at the door.

Only he wasn’t stuck. He was stalling. And as he caught sight of Hazard, he pushed the door open.

Another figure came around the corner at the far end of the hall. He was running. He was moving at full speed. He had the perfect, loping grace that Hazard would recognize anywhere. He had memorized every inch of this man, pieced him together in his mind a thousand times, ten thousand times, over the last twenty years.

“Somers,” Hazard screamed, barely recognizing his own voice. “Stop!”

After that, everything happened at once. A muzzle flashed. The light painted Somers in a hundred different shades of red. It picked out every detail, splashing light and shadow, highlighting the perfect lines of his face, the confusion, the surprise, and underneath it all, etching itself into the skin, fear. A boom echoed down the corridor. Somers tumbled over sideways.

Somers.

Then the shooter shoved open the emergency exit door, and summer light flooded into the Haverford’s fetid darkness, and Hazard could pick out the gleam of that sunlight on the tension wire running six inches in front of his own shin.

Somers.

Hazard cleared the wire. Ten yards to Somers. Eight.

Somers smiling at him in the park.

Six yards.

Somers swinging Evie and laughing.

Five.

Somers naked on the bed, one hand tracing the dark calligraphy across his chest, and wearing that damn smirk he always wore when he knew he was about to get what he wanted.

Three yards. Three.

And then, to Hazard’s surprise, he heard Somers voice. “Go get him. Go get him, Ree. I’m fine. Go after him.”

Again, intuition and instinct took over when emotion fried the rational centers of Hazard’s brain. He swerved towards the exit door, caught it on his bad shoulder, and howled. He didn’t care about the noise at this point. All he cared about was catching this bastard.

The shooter was twenty yards ahead, sprinting full speed down the alley behind the Haverford. In full daylight, seen directly instead of at a distance through a windshield, the man looked different than what Hazard had expected. In spite of the heat, he wore a balaclava, gloves and long-sleeved pants and a shirt. Hazard had already seen in him all that gear, but still, something was different. The difference wasn’t anything Hazard could put his finger on, but he was suddenly less certain about his earlier guess. Was the man older? Younger? Was he not even a man at all? The eyes—from this distance, Hazard could make them out more clearly. Electric green. Like cat eyes.

Hazard put on speed. A fresh wave of adrenaline burned through him, incinerating every thought, and the last one, the one that floated up like a cinder caught on a draft of emotion, was simply: Somers is all right. And then Hazard was moving like a truck.

He hit the shooter at full speed. Hazard meant it to be a tackle, but his bad arm refused to respond, and when they hit the ground, the shooter rolled free instead of staying trapped by Hazard’s mass. Hazard scrambled after the man. He caught an ankle, dragging the shooter back, and the shooter’s other foot shot out and caught Hazard in the chin. Hazard’s head snapped back. Black stars spun in his vision.

But he hadn’t let go, and he hauled on the ankle again. A second kick connected with his head, but this time, Hazard had been expecting it, and he turned so that the blow glanced along the contour of his skull instead of meeting straight on. With as much strength as he could muster, Hazard hauled, and the shooter skidded three feet back over the gravel. Hazard reared back, trying to get enough weight on the bastard to pin him until Somers got there.

This time, though, the shooter reared back and twisted into a punch. Hazard took it as best he could, ducking, but it landed solidly above his ear, and Hazard saw those black stars again. Could feel them, even, prickly against his face. He took another punch, and the third one he managed to knock aside, batting it out of the air like he was Babe fucking Ruth. He just had to hold on. Twenty seconds. Thirty. Somers would be here. Somers was coming.

The next punch was strange; even addled by the blows to the head, Hazard knew something was wrong because the shooter telegraphed the punch loud and clear, and it was obvious that he had changed his target. Instead of throwing another fist or elbow at Hazard’s head, the shooter was aiming down.

At his arm, Hazard realized a moment too late. At his bad arm. The punch was clear as newsprint. If he’d been thinking clearly, if he’d had even an extra second, Hazard could have avoided it. But he was rattled from the earlier blows, and waves of adrenaline battered him, and he hated that arm, that was the bottom of it, he hated that fucking arm because it was useless, and so he didn’t think about it.

The punch landed perfectly, right where a long, jagged cut was still healing, and Hazard’s world went white.

CRIMINAL PAST Blurb:

It all starts to go wrong at the shooting gallery. Emery Hazard and his boyfriend, John-Henry Somerset, just want to enjoy the day at the Dore County Independence Fair. At the shooting gallery, though, Hazard comes face to face with one of his old bullies: Mikey Grames. Even as a drugged-out wreck, Mikey is a reminder of all the ugliness in Hazard’s past. Worse, Mikey seems to know something Hazard doesn’t—something about the fresh tension brewing in town.

When the Chief of Police interrupts Hazard’s day at the fair, she has a strange request. She doesn’t want Hazard and Somers to solve a murder. She wants them to prevent one. The future victim? Mayor Sherman Newton—a man who has tried to have Hazard and Somers killed at least once.

Hazard and Somers try to work out the motive of the man threatening Newton, and the trail leads them into a conspiracy of corrupt law enforcement, white supremacists, and local politicians. As Hazard and Somers dig into the case, their search takes them into the past, where secrets have lain buried for twenty years.

Determined to get to the truth, Hazard finds himself racing for answers, but he discovers that sometimes the past isn’t buried very deep. Sometimes, it isn’t dead. Sometimes, it isn’t even past. And almost always, it’s better left alone.

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Want to know more about author Gregory Ashe and his novels?

Check out his website:

https://www.gregoryashe.com

Exclusive Excerpt: Touch (The Blake Harte Mysteries Book 8) by Robert Innes

Excerpt:

The house, according to the idle tongues of the locals, had stood there for as long as anybody could remember. It was an old and rickety building, rotting wooden beams festooned around the odd-looking structure that looked very much out of place amongst the considerably more modern and sleek buildings around it. Nobody ever entered it, in fact nearly everyone walked past the house on a day to day basis and completely ignored it. It was, to all intents and purposes, a historic defect in the otherwise tidy street that nobody could be bothered to remove.
And yet, tonight, a ten-year-old boy found himself standing at the front door of the building. Blake Harte had an irresistible urge to explore the unknown coasting through his veins.

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He glanced up at the huge yellow sign, almost as old and out of place as the house itself, warning of the building being unsafe to enter and found himself smiling excitedly. What was being hidden here? What did the people who had put the sign there want to keep secret? Rumours around the classroom varied. Some whispers suggested the possibility that a witch lived there, who only came out when there was nobody to see her, before she set off on her broomstick to cast spells around the neighbourhood. A few of Blake’s classmates were convinced that the house was an entrance to another dimension, and that setting foot inside it would transport the intruder to a world very different to ours. The main form of consensus though was that the house was haunted by the spirits of all who had lived there and there were various murmurings of a headless man prowling the building, looking for his missing head that had been lost in a terrible accident, though Blake did not believe that for a second.
He glanced around as the cold wind whipped up around him. It whistled through the trees, creating the only sound in the otherwise silent street. Blake quickly leaned back and stared down the street in the direction of his house. The lights were all off, his parents fast asleep. The only movement he could see was from the open window of his bedroom on the ground floor, the curtains flapping in the wind, dragged out from where he had climbed out of the window. He had been planning this night all week.
Blake took a deep breath and put his hand on the door handle, then groaned in disappointment. The door was locked.
He stepped back and examined the building, his imagination trying to fathom a way in which he could gain access. As he stared up at the top of the house, a car suddenly roared around the corner of the street, its headlights illuminating him. He froze as the car drew nearer. If somebody he knew saw him sneaking around in the middle of the night, then his parents would soon find out about it and the last thing he wanted was one of his mum’s telling offs.
He leapt around the side of the house just before the driver of the car would have been able to see him and pressed his back against the wall, breathing heavily. Suddenly, the impact of what he was doing threatened to overcome him. He shuddered, half from the cold, half from the thought of what his parents would say if they knew what he was doing, but as the words of his best friend, Tommy Davis, crept into his head, calling him a chicken and daring him to find out what the house was hiding, determination flooded through him again. He had come this far, there was no going back now. He had to get into the house.
He crept around the side of the old building, searching for a way in. He climbed over a small wall and found himself in the garden, or rather, what presumably used to be the garden. Now, it was extremely overgrown and unsightly. Nettle beds were lit ominously by the street lights, surrounded by nests of dock leaves and tall dandelions. As he scrambled through the weeds, trying his best not to get stung, he spotted a small window on the other side of the yard. It was slightly ajar, though as Blake looked closer, he realised that the glass had come loose from the rotting wooden frames. He stood and stared at it for a few moments, debating whether he was really brave enough to try and crawl through. He thought about his other classmates who would give their right arm to be where he was now, then realised that very few of them would have been able to squeeze through the tiny window. Blake had always been teased about how skinny he was, but now, he was starting to see the advantages.
He took a deep breath and hauled himself up to the window. Thin as he was, it was still a struggle to get through the tiny gap. At one point, he stuck fast, his front half suddenly enveloped in darkness as his legs dangled helplessly behind him. He struggled, suddenly too scared to go any further, but by now it was too late to change direction. Even if he wanted to run home and forget all about this crazy idea, he would have to get into the house then climb back out again.
Blake put his hands on the wall and with a huge effort pushed himself through the rest of the window, landing on the floor in a heap, the sound of his body hitting the ground echoing slightly around the pitch-black house.
Blake lay on the floor for a few moments to check that he was the only noise in the house. The dust from the floor tickled his nose and as he stood up, he became aware of the musty smell that reminded him of the local church that his mum sometimes dragged him to on Sundays. His eyes slowly adjusted to the gloominess of the room, not that it gave him much more of a clue what was around him.
He slowly moved across the room, attempting not to trip over anything. As his hands blindly waved about, trying to find the wall, he became aware that he was walking through a puddle of something on the floor. At last, his hands clasped onto a small box protruding from the wall and what was unmistakably a button. He felt more scared now, almost hoping that the light would not work and that he would be left in the darkness, clueless about his surroundings. Then, he could go home, knowing that he had at least tried, but the task had been impossible due to the fact that he could not see anything. Maybe he would come back in the daylight. He could even bring Tommy with him then.
He pressed the light and was immediately blinded by the surprisingly bright light that suddenly flooded the room. Then, he opened his eyes. He immediately wished he had kept them closed.
He was standing in what looked to be a living room, but he was distracted from taking into much of his surroundings when he saw what the puddle on the ground actually was. It was a dark red colour beneath an old rocking chair in the centre of the room. Seated in the chair was an old woman, her face white and her eyes and mouth wide open as if in a silent scream. She was dressed in old, dirty looking clothing and sticking out her back was a large knife. Blake’s breath caught in his throat as he stared at the horrifying sight before him. The pool of blood on the floor glistened in the light beneath the body of the woman. Blake could not move, too terrified to try and force his legs to work.
Then, she cried out his name, her face remaining in her ghastly expression of terror.
“Blake.”
Blake continued staring at her. He tried to run, but the floor seemed to be now gripping over his feet. The carpet swamped around his legs, holding him in place as the name rang out again.
“Blake!”
Then, as the floor tightened its grip around his bottom half, the woman stood up, her face still contorted in a silence scream. She reached towards him, her mouth seeming to open even wider.
Blake!”
“No!” screamed Blake and put his arms up over his head as the woman leaned closer towards him, her hands flying forwards to grab him.
Then, just as she was about to grab hold of him, Blake Harte opened his eyes with a jolt.

BLURB:

Football fever has Harmschapel in its grip. After decades of failure, Harmschapel F.C has made it to the County Cup final. All hopes are resting on the team’s talented new striker Scott Jennings bringing victory to the village, but the match threatens to bring deep-rooted rivalries to the surface.

Detective Sergeant Blake Harte finds himself forced to sit through the tense final in case of any trouble. Though the last thing he expects is to be thrown into the midst of another impossible crime, he and the rest of Harmschapel Police are left baffled when Scott is murdered in the middle of the match.

With none of the other players anywhere near him at the time of his death, and a stadium full of witnesses that all seem as clueless as each other, Blake is left with very little to go on as to how a killer could have left Scott with a deep wound in his side without being seen.

As the suspect list grows, Blake discovers dark secrets that are desperate to remain hidden. And someone is watching him. Someone who knows Blake Harte and everything he holds dear. They have their own score to settle, and they are about to make the first move in a game that they intend for Blake to lose…

ny

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Learn more about author, Robert Innes:

Robert Innes is the author of The Blake Harte Mysteries – a series of head scratching and impossible crimes.
When he’s not trying to work out how to commit seemingly perfect murders and building up a worrying Google search history, Robert can be found at his local slimming group, wondering why eating three pizzas in the space of a week hasn’t resulted in a weight loss.
Since the creation of the Blake Harte mystery series in November 2016, each book has become a best seller in LGBT mystery both in the USA and the UK.