New short story: In Flagrante

This takes place late last summer, after Jamie and Pete have been back from New Mexico for a few weeks. It’s a hint at one of the plot lines in the next Jamie Brodie Mystery, Drugged to Death, coming in May. Enjoy!

It was Melanie Hayes’s 39th birthday. Neil Anderson, Mel’s law partner, and his husband Mark Sivak were throwing a big birthday bash on the weekend, but we didn’t want to allow the actual day to pass without a celebration of some sort.

Ali and Mel’s favorite hangout was El Caribe, a straight-friendly gay club in Venice. After ensuring that we wouldn’t encounter speed dating, and possibly Stephen Atcheson, we arranged to gather for dinner and drinks after work.

When Pete and I got there, Ali and Mel were already at a big table in the far corner with Jon and Liz. Kevin and Kristen arrived shortly thereafter. When our beers, margaritas, pina coladas, etc. arrived, I lifted my glass. “Happy birthday, Mel. You’re finally caught up to the rest of us.”

Mel was the baby of our grade school friend group, three months younger than Ali and me. She laughed. “Not for long. Robbie turns forty in November.”

Robbie Harrison, the fourth member of our Four Musketeers from fourth grade through middle school. He was now a forensic accountant in San Diego. Ali said, “We should all descend on his office that day. Drag him out to do something fun.”

The conversation led to regaling Pete, Kristen, Jon, and Liz with tales of our childhood exploits. After a couple more drinks and a full glass of water, my bladder was calling to me. I said, “I’ve gotta hit the head.” I held a finger in front of Liz’s nose. “You, don’t touch my drink.”

Liz spluttered indignantly. Jon said, “Never fear. The LAPD will protect your property.”

The men’s room was busy; I had to wait a minute for a urinal. As I did, my gaze came to rest on the first stall – or what I could see of it, below its metal wall. It was occupied by two guys. One was standing with his back to the door; the other was on his knees, apparently servicing the first.

Whatever. El Caribe wasn’t known as a pickup bar, but it had been known to happen.

A couple of other guys had noticed; one raised an eyebrow at me as he walked past. I shrugged and headed for the urinal that he’d just vacated.

By the time I was finished, the rest of the customers had washed their hands and left the room. I zipped up to the sound of someone’s orgasm – apparently the guy who was standing, since I could see that the one on his knees was pumping himself. He finished just as I reached the sink.

I washed my hands thoroughly, finding myself voyeuristically curious about the couple in the stall, and a tiny bit turned on. As I was yanking paper towels from the dispenser, the stall door opened, the culprits came face to face with me – and my arousal instantly died.

One was a cute young twink with blond hair sticking up in tufts and red, swollen lips.

The other was Paul Thayer.

Paul was married to Aaron Quinn, one of Pete’s best friends from their days on faculty at Santa Monica College. Pete had been Aaron’s best man at his wedding to Paul, six months before our own. But for a couple of years now, Paul had been intermittently cheating on Aaron. I knew they were in couples therapy as a result.

Unsuccessfully, it seemed.

I recovered from my shock first and dried my hands. “Hiya, Paul.”

Paul’s eyes were darting around like a trapped animal. He was looking at anything but me. He said, “Um. Jamie.”

“You’re a long way from home.” Paul and Aaron lived in Pasadena.

He laughed weakly. “Yeah. Well.”

The twink was eyeing me with more than academic interest. “You’re cute.”

“I’m married.” I nodded at Paul. “So is he.”

Oh.” The twink glared at Paul. “You didn’t tell me that.”

Paul smirked at the kid. “Would it have mattered?”

Twink squared his shoulders in an attempt to reclaim his dignity. “Fuck, yeah. I don’t do married guys.” He moved to a sink and washed his hands.

Paul, having recovered his senses somewhat, turned bitchy. “What are you doing here?”

“Celebrating a friend’s birthday. We come here all the time. I guess I don’t have to ask what you’re doing here, 25 miles from home.”

Twink shook water from his hands and dried them. “Where does he live?”

I said, “Pasadena.”

“He told me he lived in Santa Monica.”

“I bet he did.” I balled up the damp paper towels in my hand and zinged them into the trash can. “I bet he told you he has an oceanfront condo, all to himself, and how lonely it is.”

Paul’s face was crimson. Twink stared at me. “How do you know that? Did he tell you that before?”

I laughed. “Hell, no. I’ve known ol’ Paul for a long time. He’s not very original.”

Twink crossed his arms. “So there is no oceanfront condo?”

“Oh, sure, there’s a condo. But it’s not Paul’s. He works in real estate. He has access to all kinds of properties.”

“Thank you.” Twink jabbed a forefinger in Paul’s direction. “And fuck you.” He spun and stalked out of the restroom, banging the door open.

Paul, to his credit, didn’t respond to the kid. He said, “Jamie. You can’t tell Aaron.”

“Why shouldn’t I? He deserves to know that you’re cheating on him again.”

“But he’ll leave me.”

“Well, yeah, Paul. Because you’re a dishonest asshole. He can do far better than you.”

Paul was whining now. “But I love him!”

I waved my hand at the restroom. “So this is how you demonstrate that?”

“Listen. I need lots of sex. Aaron and I…well…the spark just isn’t there anymore. You and Pete have been married almost as long as we have. You must know what I’m talking about.”

I did, but I would never admit it to this jerk. “And yet you told Aaron you didn’t want an open relationship. There’s only one question here, Paul. Who’s gonna tell Aaron about tonight? You or me?”

Paul’s face darkened. “You’d do that? Ruin my life? Ruin Aaron’s life?”

“Aaron’s life is already ruined.” Paul started to babble, and I held up a finger. “Shut it. Here’s what’s gonna happen. In a couple of days, Pete will call Aaron for an unrelated reason, and in the course of the conversation ask how it’s going in counseling. If Aaron doesn’t tell Pete that you’ve filled him in on your weekend activities, then Pete will tell Aaron.” I spread my hands. “Your choice.”

Paul’s expression was thunderous. He snarled. “Fine. I’ll tell him.”

“See that you do. And you might want to find out if this place has a back door.” I turned on my heel and left the restroom.

When I reached our table, the conversation skidded to a halt as seven faces caught my facial expression at the same time. Ali said, “Uh oh.”

Pete said, “What?”

I dropped into my seat. “Guess who was in the men’s room, receiving a hummer from a barely legal kid?”

Liz said, “Not Stephen Atcheson.”

I nearly choked on my drink. “God, no.”

Pete didn’t have to guess. “Paul Thayer.”

“Yup.”

“That asshole.”

Kevin said, “He’s the home staging guy, right? Fixed up your dad’s house to sell?”

Pete said, “Right. He’s also married to my friend Aaron Quinn. I was Aaron’s best man. They’re in counseling, supposedly working through Paul’s cheating and dishonesty.”

Liz said, “Doesn’t seem to be helping.”

I said, “Mel. Listen. If Paul contacts you, asking you to represent him in a divorce, please say no. If you take anyone’s case, take Aaron’s.”

Mel nodded. “Give Aaron my number. Is Paul the primary breadwinner?”

Pete said, “Yes. Paul is one of the top home stagers in LA. He makes at least twenty times as much as Aaron.”

Ali grinned, nudging Mel with her shoulder. “You’ll enjoy this one.”

Mel tossed back a mouthful of margarita and thumped the glass onto the table. “You betcha.”

I said to Pete, “I told Paul that if he didn’t tell Aaron, we would. That you’d call Aaron in a couple of days to talk about something else and ask him how counseling was going, and if Aaron didn’t know, you’d tell him.”

Pete was aghast. “I’m not gonna tell him on the phone.”

“Of course not. You and he will meet for coffee or something.”

Pete scrubbed his face with his hands. “Uurrrgggghhhhh.”

Kristen said, “I’m guessing there’s no open relationship.”

I said, “No. Aaron offered one, and Paul refused. Said he wanted monogamy.”

Kevin was disgusted. “Is he one of these who doesn’t consider blow jobs as cheating?”

Pete said, “No. I’m sure they’ve both made their expectations clear in counseling. At this point, the dishonesty is worse than the cheating.”

Kristen said, “Aaron can’t trust Paul anymore.”

Pete scowled into his beer. “Nope.”

 

Paul must have found the back door; he didn’t appear. Our conversation gradually swung to other topics, and we ended the evening on a lighter note. When we got home, our yellow Lab, Ammo, leaped to his paws in delight and began dancing around us. Pete groaned.

I said, “The joys of parenthood. Come on. A walk will help me sober up.”

We took our usual route, around the corner to Arizona Avenue. I said, “Do you think I did the right thing, with what I told Paul?”

“Yes.” Pete sighed. “Ideally, it’ll scare Paul into telling Aaron himself.”

“Yeah. I’d prefer that too.” We walked in silence for a minute. “They’re not gonna make it, are they?”

Pete said, “I don’t think so. Knowing Aaron, frankly, I’m surprised he’s stayed this long.”

“I guess Paul will keep the penis collection.” Paul and Aaron’s house was decorated with penile art in various media and styles.

Pete snorted. “I expect so.”

“It’s such a shame.”

“I know. I feel terrible for Aaron.”

“So do I, but not just that.” I stopped as Ammo added his signature to a telephone pole. “People fought so long and so hard for same-sex marriage. And for someone like Paul to treat it like it meant nothing, to throw it away… It’s maddening.”

“Agreed. And it plays right into the hands of the opposition. ‘See? The gays aren’t stable enough for marriage.’”

I kicked at a pebble. “I still believe, though, in the long run, our divorce rates will be lower.”

“So do I. But those stats won’t be available for a while.”

I nudged him with my shoulder. “I’m never divorcing you.”

He laughed. “Good to know. I’m never divorcing you either.”

I started to sing – softly, so the people in the houses we passed didn’t think we were nuts. “We’ve been together since way back when…”

Pete laughed and joined in. “Sometimes I never want to see you again…”

We sang out when we got to the chorus. “You’re still the one…”

 

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Status: Plotting

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Alhassan Abdul-Manan [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

Happy new year, everyone! I hope the first week of 2020 has treated you well.

2020. Wow. In Jamie Brodie’s alternate universe, the final book of the series, Resigned to Death, began yesterday. (It doesn’t end until June. The final book is gonna be LONG.)

The next-to-final book, Drugged to Death, is finished. I think. My writing group still has to read the final section of it and critique, then it needs to be edited. It will be released on Thursday, May 21st, which is the day that I will be appearing on the Gay Mystery Authors podcast. That’s how far in advance I had to book my spot on the podcast! I hope you’re listening; it’s a terrific source if you want to discover new-to-you gay mysteries.

Right now I’m working semi-feverishly on the second book in the Space Coast Mysteries series, Three Thousand Miles. Writing Greg and Justin is very different from writing Pete and Jamie. I don’t know them as well and they’re not living in my head like Jamie does. Which is good, in some ways. That book will be out in March, I think, at least well before Drugged to Death.

I promise that you’ll see more of Jamie after Resigned to Death. The first 21 books are what my editor refers to as “canon.” I’ve been thinking, however, that Jamie will have a new adventure about every other year after (spoiler alert?) he and Pete move to New Mexico. The first one will actually be a prequel: Jamie’s first case, back in Oceanside.

The alternate universe will continue, however, with the Kevin Brodie Mysteries. Some of these will be gay mysteries; some of them won’t. But all will feature Kevin and Kristen, Jon and Liz, Max and Jill, Susan Portman, Clinton, and the rest of the LA gang. I’m going to continue with the …To Death title format; the first Kevin Brodie Mystery will be Painted to Death. Coming in 2021.

So! What are your plans for the year? 😀

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I’m featured this week!

On Jon Michaelsen’s blog. Jon is one of the guys who runs the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Facebook page, of which I am a member. Every week he posts a link to his blog, where he features a recently published gay mystery book. It’s a great way to discover new writers, and the segment is usually long enough that you can tell whether you want to read the book or not.

Anyway, this week, Deserted to Death is his feature! Check it out, and follow Jon’s blog for more gay mystery recommendations. Or join us in the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Facebook group!

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Jamie Brodie Mystery #19

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I’m featured on the Advent Calendar today!

Josh Lanyon’s annual Advent Calendar, that is, on her blog. Check it out: http://joshlanyon.blogspot.com/2019/12/advent-calendar-day-12.html#comment-form

Capture

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A chance for a do-over

How often do we get the chance to do something over in life? Personally, there are all sorts of decisions that I made in my youth that I’d fix if I could. Although then I might not have ended up here, so maybe that’s not such a good idea.

However.

When I started writing fiction, I had NO idea what I was doing. I was a biology major in college. I had a solid foundation in spelling and grammar; I could construct a solid sentence and had a decent vocabulary. But formal training in writing? Nope.

Cited to Death, the first Jamie Brodie Mystery, showed my lack of experience. Seven years later, I’m a better writer than I was then. I certainly know my characters a LOT better than I did then. And I’ve never been entirely happy with the ending of that book.

So I’ve done it over. Let me emphasize. Nothing has changed in terms of Jamie and Pete’s arc. But the book is tighter and the ending is (I think) better. There are many people who read Cited to Death and didn’t like it enough to continue with the series. I’m hoping that the changes to this second edition will decrease that number, and more people will keep reading.

If you own Cited to Death in e-book format, you should be able to update the book on your e-reader. I know you can with Kindle, and I assume you can with the other e-readers. For Kindle it’s under Your Account, then Manage Content and Devices, then Preferences, then Automatic Book Updates.

The new version will be out on Friday for Kindle. I hope to have it the same day through the other outlets as well.

Of course, a new edition means a new cover, too…

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Are you listening to the Gay Mystery Authors podcast?

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Jamie Brodie Mystery #19

And if not, why not? It’s terrific. It’s hosted by Brad Shreve and Justene Adamec, and airs on Thursdays. Every week, Justene reviews a gay mystery book and Brad then interviews a gay mystery author.

This week, Justene reviewed Deserted to Death! (Spoiler: she liked it.) I didn’t know ahead of time, so it was a lovely Thanksgiving surprise! You can listen here.

My TBR list is already growing thanks to the podcast, and the discussions with authors are fascinating. I’m going to be interviewed next May.

Check it out!!

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Footsteps in the Dark audio is #1!

The audio to the anthology Footsteps in the Dark was released yesterday. Check it out today: Capture

I will never, ever, ever be able to say again that anything I wrote was selling better than James Patterson.

I’ve listened to the first two chapters of Twelve Seconds, as narrated by Joel Leslie Froomkin, and I approve. I particularly adore the accents of Ryan Utley and Col. Ward Vernon. Greg Marcotte’s accent is a tad too Texas to be a North Carolina native, but that’s okay. I like Mindy Leonard’s voice, too.

See what you think!

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