New Release Blitz for A Body In A Bathhouse (A Mitch O’Reilly Mystery) by Brad Shreve (excerpt and giveaway)

Standard

 

Buy Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal LinkExclusive to Amazon and Available to Borrow with Kindle Unlimited
 
Length: 65,000 words approx.
 
Cover Design: UmeWorks
 
Blurb
 

On the verge of bankruptcy, private investigator, Mitch O’Reilly takes any gig that comes his way, while running his Eye Spy Supply shop in a forgotten Los Angeles strip mall. After two tours in Afghanistan, Mitch’s life amounts to operating his store, coping with his fun-loving sister, Josie, and scoring with anonymous men he meets online. That changes when he gets a break. A beloved comedy scriptwriter is murdered at a bathhouse, and Mitch is hired to prove the innocence of the club custodian. Adapting from a two-bit gumshoe to a high-profile sleuth proves more challenging than he expected.

As if Mitch didn’t have enough to deal with, charismatic bathhouse operator, Trent Nakos, enters his life. After a heartbreaking past, the manager is the definition of a man the brooding P.I. actively avoids.

Following leads from sprawling mansions to sketchy hoods is demanding but becomes more troublesome when deadly threats jeopardize the biggest opportunity of his career.

 
Excerpt

Trance music, which I hate, blared into the streets from the club. Since I hadn’t been dancing in West Hollywood since college, walking into Euphoria was surreal. The faces were different, but nothing had changed.

The bartender yelled over the music, “What can I get for you?”

“A Rolling Rock,” I yelled back. I gave him my credit card and told him I’d run a tab.

Near the bar was a platform where a go-go boy was dancing. He was young, scrawny, pasty white, and had a red mohawk. The crowd paid no attention, and he frowned. I made a mental note to tip him on my way out.

Further back in the bar, another dancer dominated the crowd’s attention. I recognized his rich, dark, perfectly defined body from Club Silver Lake’s security videos. What got him the most attention was what he was packing below. His thong had to have been custom made. It wasn’t possible for him to fit into something off the shelf.

“Is that Christian?” I yelled to the bartender.

“If you’re asking, you must be from out of town, or you don’t get out much,” he hollered back.

“Touché,” I replied. “What’s his usual?”

“A tequila shot with a Corona chaser.”

“Set them up for me for his next break,” I said, thinking it might be necessary to loosen him up before questioning.

I grabbed the three drinks—his tequila and chaser, and my beer—and moved to a table near Christian. He rolled his magnificent stomach, then turned and shook his bubble butt at the crowd. Cheers drowned the music as he played with his honey-colored thong—pulling it down just enough to throw them into a frenzy, then raising it again to groans of disappointment. His face was rugged yet boyish with his wide smile and deep dimples. The bucks were flying.

Christian stepped off the platform as I downed the last of my beer. I grabbed his drinks and rushed behind him, through the rows of sweaty men, to the back of the bar. I was too slow. He entered his dressing room before I could catch him.

I knocked.

The door opened. “What?”

“I ordered these for you.”

He took the tequila shot from my hand and downed it, then grabbed the beer. “Thanks,” he snapped and closed the door.

I knocked again.

The door flew open. “Thanks for the drinks,” he shouted, “but I’m on break and need my space.”

I held out my hand to shake. “Hi, Christian. I’m Mitch O’Reilly. I–—”

I narrowly escaped him cutting off my hand as he slammed the door shut.

I was shocked that he actually opened the door when I knocked again, and I stuck out my foot so he couldn’t slam it again. “Not to disappoint you, but I’m not here as a fan. I’m the private investigator hired to look into Victor Verboom’s murder.”

He took the business card I held out and tossed to the floor. The room was nothing more than a closet with a single wooden chair, and a bookcase stacked with clothing.

“What do you want?”

“You were at Club Silver Lake the night he was murdered.”

“Yeah. What of it?” His voice was smoky.

“I’m meeting with all the suspects.”

He turned his head quickly. “I’m a suspect?”

“You were there, weren’t you?”

“Uh, yes.” He looked back and forth through the club and took a step back. “I’ll put some clothes on, and we’ll go to my car. Meet me out front.”

I wasn’t on the sidewalk long before he trotted out wearing jeans and a white tank top. He motioned me to follow him to a light blue Mustang. It looked new. “When I can’t get any peace in there, I come out here on my breaks.”

“Nice car. Not a bad ride for a nightclub dancer. You must do pretty well on that platform.”

“Screw the car. What do you want?”

About The Author
 

After growing up in Michigan and North Carolina, Brad Shreve criss-crossed the country while working in the hotel industry. In addition to working in hotels as a bellman, front desk clerk, and reservation call center director, he’s managed coffee houses, waited tables, sold potato chips off a truck and even hocked pre-burial funeral plans.


He credits Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak for developing his interest in art and storytelling. He’d spend hours on the floor sketching and painting and writing stories. My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George gave him his first inklings that he’d like to be a novelist someday.


In addition to perpetually thinking of how to kill people, he’s a proud dad, a beach bum, and coffee house squatter.


He currently lives in the Los Angeles South Bay with his husband, Maurice.


Website/Newsletter Sign Up: www.bradshreve.com
Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bradshreve
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bradshreveauthor

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions

 

An Alisa Review: Finding Forgiveness (The Knights Club #5) by CJ Baty

Standard

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Xavier Knight lied and now his past was catching up to him. Sebastian Brady meant everything to him. Losing him wasn’t an option Xavier was ready to accept. Ghosts from his past threaten to open up a secret that needs to stay hidden. He wasn’t going to let Zach Brady or anyone else take his happiness away from him.

Zachary Brady had lived in the shadow of his father his entire life. He’d lost his family, his job—everything. What happened between him and Xavier Knight was long ago and best forgotten. He wasn’t going to allow it to sabotage his chance to be accepted by his brothers and sister as family again.

Neither man realizes that they don’t hold the key to their peace of mind. And when the truth is revealed, it will shake their worlds. Family isn’t always the one you are born into, sometimes it’s the one you create for yourself.

So, this series has been frustrating me and this one just jumped on that bandwagon too.  Zach and Xavier’s past doesn’t help this story and the fact that they had been keeping it a secret didn’t help matters and muddies the waters even more when Phillip begins to look for his mother.

We do get to learn some of what actually happened between Zach and Xavier and not just through Xavier’s stilted view.  I can’t help but feel that Zach was an ass in regards to his family and no wonder his kids haven’t spoken to him in years.  It was nice to see him begin to turn over a new leaf which mostly starts with his siblings.  So much is left open and with no conclusion it just was not satisfying as an ending to the series.

The cover art by Select-O-Grafix continues to follow the design of the rest of the series but just doesn’t do anything in regards to the story.

Sales Link: Amazon

Book Details:

Ebook, 85 pages

Published: February 6, 2019

Edition Language: English

Series: The Knights Club #5

Charlie Cochrane on Her Fav Reads and her new release Old Sins (Lindenshaw Mysteries #4) by Charlie Cochrane (author guest post, tour and giveaway)

Standard

Old Sins (Lindenshaw Mysteries #4) by Charlie Cochrane

Riptide Publishing
Cover Art: L.C. Chase

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Charlie Cochrane back again talking about the latest releases in her Lindenshaw Mysteries, Old Sins.  Welcome, Charlie.

 

🐾

 

 

What Charlie likes to read

Do you have a favourite book? I have many, in all sorts of genres. “The Charioteer” if we’re talking gay fiction, “Death at the President’s Lodging” if it’s mysteries, “Three Men in a Boat” for humour; the list goes on and on through different genre, fictional and non-fiction. Some of these books are a bit of a guilty pleasure, not least because I can see their flaws.

I’m a huge fan of classic age mystery writers; Dorothy, Agatha, Michael, Ngaio and the rest, but they have their feet of clay. Sayers could sometimes overcomplicate plots to the point of obscurity (which reader could really have worked out the sequence of events in Five Red Herrings?) and seems increasingly in love with her detective, Lord Peter Wimsey.  All of these authors shared a falling of their powers in later life – the last few Appleby mysteries are a pale shadow of the early ones – and, of course, all were products of their time, so modern readers might fund things which jar, such as anti-semitic references or the treatment of gay characters in a derogatory way.

Some of these authors reused plot ideas and devices. The classic story of the murderer assuming someone else’s identity, sometimes to benefit from inheritance, occurs again and again with Christie (as do other tried and tested story arcs). Marsh also showed an economy of plot, using the same method of murder both in a short story and again in a full novel. Her “Death and the Dancing Footman” falls into the category of “familiar plot” – the twist is the sort that an avid reader of the genre would soon spot –  but that doesn’t make it any less of a delightful comfort read. A sort of literary equivalent of mulled wine in front of a roaring fire.

The book has several of the staple elements of the archetypal classic age mystery: a country house, a house party cut off by snow, family rivalries, a sealed room death, an outsider who acts as ‘chorus’ and a witty, urbane and aristocratic sleuth, Roderick Alleyn. How I love “Handsome Alleyn” – I wonder if Ngaio loved him, too, like Sayers loved Wimsey. He seems just a bit too perfect at times.

That’s why I’m determined to show that neither of my male leads in the Lindenshaw series are anything less than human. They get angry, they make mistakes, they argue with each other, they make up, they talk about work, they refuse to talk about work…just like any of us. I’m also determined not to fall in love with either of them, although how can I resist falling head over heels for their dog Campbell?

A detective, his boyfriend and their dog. That’s the Lindenshaw mysteries in a nutshell. Old Sins is the fourth instalment in the series, and not only does Robin have a murder to investigate, he and Adam have got the “little” matter of their nuptials to start planning. And, of course, Campbell the Newfoundland gets his cold wet nose into things, as usual.

 

About Old Sins

Past sins have present consequences.

Detective Chief Inspector Robin Bright and his partner, deputy headteacher Adam Matthews, have just consigned their summer holiday to the photo album. It’s time to get back to the daily grind, and the biggest problem they’re expecting to face: their wedding plans. Then fate strikes—literally—with a bang.

Someone letting loose shots on the common, a murder designed to look like a suicide, and the return of a teacher who made Robin’s childhood hell all conspire to turn this into one of his trickiest cases yet.

Especially when somebody might be targeting their Newfoundland, Campbell. Robin is used to his and Adam’s lives being in danger, but this takes the—dog—biscuit.

Available now from Riptide Publishing.

 

About the Lindenshaw Mysteries

Adam Matthews’s life changed when Inspector Robin Bright walked into his classroom to investigate a murder.

Now it seems like all the television series are right: the leafy villages of England do indeed conceal a hotbed of crime, murder, and intrigue. Lindenshaw is proving the point.

Detective work might be Robin’s job, but Adam somehow keeps getting involved—even though being a teacher is hardly the best training for solving crimes. Then again, Campbell, Adam’s irrepressible Newfoundland dog, seems to have a nose for figuring things out, so how hard can it be?

Check out the Lindenshaw Mysteries.

 

About Charlie Cochrane

Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Endeavour and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.

Connect with Charlie:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Old Sins one lucky person will win a swag bag from Charlie! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on February 16, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

A Stella Release Day Review: Rebound by Andrew Grey

Standard

RATING 2,5 out of 5 stars

Professional basketball player Bri Early needs a physical therapist after an injury, and he’s heard that Obie is the best. Bri takes an immediate liking to the out-and-proud man with the magic touch, and even though Bri isn’t openly gay himself, he’d never let anything stand in the way of something he wants.

Obie can’t deny that the sexy athlete presses all his buttons, but he’s a professional and has no intention of getting involved with a client. While they’re working together, it’s hands off, no matter how great the temptation.

But being a pro athlete isn’t easy. Bri has enemies, and one of them is making his life hell. When his house is set ablaze, Bri can no longer pretend the threatening messages he’s receiving are jokes. He needs a safe place to stay, and Obie can’t turn his back. But the two of them in the same house is a recipe for combustion that could burn them both….

I picked this new release from one of my favorite authors because I know how great Andrew Grey is and I found the blurb quite interesting. Rebound is well written, with a good plot, well defined characters. Plus there was a mystery to solve, something I like to read once in a while.

I have to say the novel started pretty well, easy and fast to read, engaging. I liked the first part a lot, discovering Bri and Obie stories, their meeting and quick friendship, how they actually knew each other without falling in bed. Plus I had some laughs with them and their families.

That said, from a moment the story went down and I struggled a lot to finish it. First of all, I missed the feelings, I wasn’t able to see the emotions the MCs felt, they seemed strangers and things were almost forced. Then the mystery part was really unreal and puzzling, it didn’t make a lot of sense and so the all book lost its strength.

The cover art by Kanaxa is lovely, I like it very much.

Sale Links

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

DreamSpinner Press

BOOK DETAILS

ebook, 194 pages

Published February 12th 2019 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN13 9781644051412

Edition Language English

Charlie Cochrane on Her Fav Reads and her new release Old Sins (Lindenshaw Mysteries #4) by Charlie Cochrane (author guest post, tour and giveaway)

Standard

Old Sins (Lindenshaw Mysteries #4) by Charlie Cochrane

Riptide Publishing
Cover Art: L.C. Chase

Sales Links:  Riptide Publishing | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Charlie Cochrane back again talking about the latest releases in her Lindenshaw Mysteries, Old Sins.  Welcome, Charlie.

 

🐾

 

 

What Charlie likes to read

Do you have a favourite book? I have many, in all sorts of genres. “The Charioteer” if we’re talking gay fiction, “Death at the President’s Lodging” if it’s mysteries, “Three Men in a Boat” for humour; the list goes on and on through different genre, fictional and non-fiction. Some of these books are a bit of a guilty pleasure, not least because I can see their flaws.

I’m a huge fan of classic age mystery writers; Dorothy, Agatha, Michael, Ngaio and the rest, but they have their feet of clay. Sayers could sometimes overcomplicate plots to the point of obscurity (which reader could really have worked out the sequence of events in Five Red Herrings?) and seems increasingly in love with her detective, Lord Peter Wimsey.  All of these authors shared a falling of their powers in later life – the last few Appleby mysteries are a pale shadow of the early ones – and, of course, all were products of their time, so modern readers might fund things which jar, such as anti-semitic references or the treatment of gay characters in a derogatory way.

Some of these authors reused plot ideas and devices. The classic story of the murderer assuming someone else’s identity, sometimes to benefit from inheritance, occurs again and again with Christie (as do other tried and tested story arcs). Marsh also showed an economy of plot, using the same method of murder both in a short story and again in a full novel. Her “Death and the Dancing Footman” falls into the category of “familiar plot” – the twist is the sort that an avid reader of the genre would soon spot –  but that doesn’t make it any less of a delightful comfort read. A sort of literary equivalent of mulled wine in front of a roaring fire.

The book has several of the staple elements of the archetypal classic age mystery: a country house, a house party cut off by snow, family rivalries, a sealed room death, an outsider who acts as ‘chorus’ and a witty, urbane and aristocratic sleuth, Roderick Alleyn. How I love “Handsome Alleyn” – I wonder if Ngaio loved him, too, like Sayers loved Wimsey. He seems just a bit too perfect at times.

That’s why I’m determined to show that neither of my male leads in the Lindenshaw series are anything less than human. They get angry, they make mistakes, they argue with each other, they make up, they talk about work, they refuse to talk about work…just like any of us. I’m also determined not to fall in love with either of them, although how can I resist falling head over heels for their dog Campbell?

A detective, his boyfriend and their dog. That’s the Lindenshaw mysteries in a nutshell. Old Sins is the fourth instalment in the series, and not only does Robin have a murder to investigate, he and Adam have got the “little” matter of their nuptials to start planning. And, of course, Campbell the Newfoundland gets his cold wet nose into things, as usual.

 

About Old Sins

Past sins have present consequences.

Detective Chief Inspector Robin Bright and his partner, deputy headteacher Adam Matthews, have just consigned their summer holiday to the photo album. It’s time to get back to the daily grind, and the biggest problem they’re expecting to face: their wedding plans. Then fate strikes—literally—with a bang.

Someone letting loose shots on the common, a murder designed to look like a suicide, and the return of a teacher who made Robin’s childhood hell all conspire to turn this into one of his trickiest cases yet.

Especially when somebody might be targeting their Newfoundland, Campbell. Robin is used to his and Adam’s lives being in danger, but this takes the—dog—biscuit.

Available now from Riptide Publishing.

 

About the Lindenshaw Mysteries

Adam Matthews’s life changed when Inspector Robin Bright walked into his classroom to investigate a murder.

Now it seems like all the television series are right: the leafy villages of England do indeed conceal a hotbed of crime, murder, and intrigue. Lindenshaw is proving the point.

Detective work might be Robin’s job, but Adam somehow keeps getting involved—even though being a teacher is hardly the best training for solving crimes. Then again, Campbell, Adam’s irrepressible Newfoundland dog, seems to have a nose for figuring things out, so how hard can it be?

Check out the Lindenshaw Mysteries.

 

About Charlie Cochrane

Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries. Multi-published, she has titles with Carina, Riptide, Endeavour and Bold Strokes, among others.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.

Connect with Charlie:

Giveaway

To celebrate the release of Old Sins one lucky person will win a swag bag from Charlie! Leave a comment with your contact info to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on February 16, 2019. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following along, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!

Series Blitz and Giveaway for The Knights Club Series by CJ Baty

Standard

 

Cover Design: Kelly Abell @ Select-O-Grafix


Knights Club Series


Book #1 – Starting Over – Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link
Book #2 – Letting Go – Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link
Book #3 – Learning Trust  – Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link
Book #4 – Coming Out – Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link
Book #5 – Finding Forgiveness – Amazon US | Amazon UK | Universal Link


The Knights Club (formerly the Gentleman’s Club) first appeared in the Warfield Hotel Mysteries Series. It was owned by Stony Whitecastle and is located in Atlanta, GA. At the beginning of the Knights Club/Starting Over, Stony is selling the club to Xavier Knight. He renames the club the Knights Club and instead of a private club opens it the public. Some patrons still hold membership though.


This series involves Xavier and his crew of employees and their involvement with a local police family. We meet Sebastian Brady in Starting Over along with his dysfunctional family. Seb’s struggle with his homophobic oldest brother and the shadow of his dead father, Detective Delmonico Brady, haunts Seb as he tries to make a new life for himself.


Occasionally, a character from the Warfield Hotel series will pop up but they are not central to the story line. Everyone who works at the Knights Club has a past and secret they are running from. They are mixed bag of people who have been suffered many things. The Knights Club is their home and the people who work there are their families. But, even families don’t like each other all the time…

 
Finding Forgiveness – OUT FEB 6



Xavier Knight lied and now his past was catching up to him. Sebastian Brady meant everything to him. Losing him wasn’t an option Xavier was ready to accept. Ghosts from his past threaten to open up a secret that needs to stay hidden. He wasn’t going to let Zach Brady or anyone else take his happiness away from him.


Zachary Brady had lived in the shadow of his father his entire life. He’d lost his family, his job—everything. What happened between him and Xavier Knight was long ago and best forgotten. He wasn’t going to allow it to sabotage his chance to be accepted by his brothers and sister as family again.


Neither man realizes that they don’t hold the key to their peace of mind. And when the truth is revealed, it will shake their worlds. Family isn’t always the one you are born into, sometimes it’s the one you create for yourself.

C. J. Baty lives in southwest Ohio. Her heart, however, lives in the mountains of Tennessee where she hopes to retire some day. The mountains have always provided her with inspiration and a soothing balm to the stresses of everyday life.
The dream of writing her own stories started in high school but was left on the back burner of life until her son introduced her to fan fiction and encouraged her to give it a try. She found that her passion for telling a story was still there and writing them down to share with others was much more thrilling than she had ever expected.


She has a loving and supportive family who don’t mind fixing their own meals when she is in the middle of a story, and a network of friends who have encouraged and cheered her on in her quest of being an author.


One thing she has learned from life and she is often heard to say is: “You are never too old to follow your dream!”


Facebook
Twitter
Website

 
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
https://widget-prime.rafflecopter.com/launch.js

Hosted By Signal Boost Promotions

 

An Alisa Release Day Review: The Case of the Voracious Vintner (Middlemark Mysteries #2) by Tara Lain

Standard
Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

 

Where Bo Marchand comes from, gay men are just confirmed bachelors who never found the right girl. But now Bo’s a successful winemaker on the central coast of California, supporting his whole damned Georgia family, and all he really wants is the beautiful, slightly mysterious Jeremy Aames.

 

Jeremy’s vineyard is under threat from Ernest Ottersen, the voracious winemaker who seems to know all Jeremy’s blending secrets and manages to grab all his customers. Bo tries to help Jeremy and even provides a phony alibi for Jeremy when Ottersen turns up dead in Jeremy’s tasting room. But it’s clear Jeremy isn’t who he claims, and Bo must decide if it’s worth tossing over his established life for a man who doesn’t seem to trust anyone. When Jeremy gets kidnapped, some the conservative winemakers turn out to be kinky sex fiends, and the list of murderers keeps dwindling down to Jeremy. Bo has to choose between hopping on his white horse or climbing back in his peach-pie-lined closet.

 

Ok, so I liked this story, though not nearly as much as the first one, it seemed to take longer to really get going.  Bo lives his life taking care of his family and it seems as if for the most part he has let them walk all over him.  Jeremy is trying to live his life but hiding at the same time.

 

So there is all kinds of backstabbing and childish behavior throughout this book and not just by the MCs but a majority of the secondary characters, truthfully I felt like I was reading about teenagers at many points.  I just hope more stories in this series have a little more depth and some more mature characters.  I know we all deal with those who aren’t but it wasn’t real enjoyable to read about them.

 

Getting to see the story from both characters’ eyes made it a little easier to understand them.  With how easily Bo decides to come out for Jeremy it made me question why he was so determined to hide it in the first place and even went on dates with women to appease his family.  Jeremy was a bit harder to get to know as he was keeping so many secrets in regards to his past that we didn’t even know anything until he was kidnapped.  I kind of wish there had been more to them building a relationship, they were kinda dating in secret and suddenly all in, it was hard to get.  I loved getting to see Llewellyn and Blaise again and how Llew is looking into more mysteries, though I’m not sure his research did too much help but it gave some more interesting things to think about.

 

I love the cover art by Kanaxa is great and gives visuals of the characters and lots of little things from the story.

 

Sales Links: Dreamspinner Press | Amazon | B&N

 

Book Details:

ebook, 279 pages

Published: January 29, 2019 by Dreamspinner Press

ISBN-13: 978-1-64080-840-9

Edition Language: English

Series: Middlemark Mysteries #2

ReplyForward

Rob Rosen on Title or Concept, and his new hilarious release Mary, Queen of Scotch! (author guest post)

Standard

 

Mary, Queen of Scotch

by

Cover Art: Written Ink Designs
Publisher: JMS Books LLC

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Rob Rosen here to talk about his latest novel Mary, Queen of Scotch.  Hi, Rob, welcome back.

✒︎

Which comes first, the book title or the story concept? In the case of my latest novel, Mary, Queen of Scotch, it was most definitely the title, which simply popped into my head one day. “Rob,” my head said, “this seems like a bitchin’ title.” My head, you see, frequently uses out-of-date vernacular. Anyway, I agreed with my head this time. Now all I needed was a story, and, right away, I came up with a drag queen, namely Mary, Queen of Scotch. Seemed like a perfect fit.

Most of my novels contain drag queens. I grew up in Atlanta. Drag queens abound in the south, Atlanta especially. I adore drag queens, live for a good drag show, and love writing about them. Drag queens, you see, can say just about anything, can do just about anything, and people stuff wads of cash into their hands. It’s all in good fun, right? But what if the fun is just a cover?

Which brings me back to my novel. I figured if one drag queen was good, a whole slew of them would be even better, especially if they all have deep, dark secrets they’re trying to hide, namely from Mary, Queen of Scotch, detective extraordinaire. Throw in a good mystery and a comic romance or two, add a few villains and a raucously funny meddling mom, and, voila, I had a story. I hope you can check it out!

You can buy a copy here (though you can find it on all book sites):  Amazon

Or for even less money, directly through my publisher:  JMS Books LLC

Excerpt:

Here’s a little excerpt to give you a taste:

The room was oddly empty. Oddly because, without the others in there, it was devoid of bitchiness, of fabulousness. It was all shell, no soul. Cryptlike would’ve been apt, but crypts rarely come replete with boas, bangles, and a blinding array of beads.

There were four tables, all with mirrors above them, bulbs all around, the lights now dim. The tables were cluttered, the mirrors lined with photos of the girls, of their loved ones, of naked beau-hunks, of catty cartoons. There were makeup containers everywhere, clothes strewn about. A cyclone couldn’t have made the place look any more cluttered.

There were eight of them, eight in the troupe. The eighth was now me. There were four tables shared by two girls. Lucy shared the table closest to the wall. It, like the other three, was covered with drag debris: discarded lipstick tubes, half-open jars of makeup remover, a few dislodged feathers, rhinestones. There was photo of Arthur and Chad taped to the mirror, a Polaroid, the couple in some sort of Buddhist-looking temple. The person taking the photo was a good bit away so that their age difference seemed less apparent, distance being a girl’s best friend.

My eyes went from my client to the tabletop to a drawer below. I gave it a pull. It pulled back. In other words, it was locked. Locked drawers have always held a special interest to me. And I’m not speaking euphemistically. Mostly. I mean, you watch any detective movie, any detective TV show, read any detective book, and the detective is always adept at picking locks. I mean, sure, I was no Columbo, but I could still hold my own in the whole lock-picking thing. That said, don’t tell my alma mater. Lock picking is illegal. And even online schools frown on their alumni committing crimes. Or at least getting caught doing so. Meaning, I learned from YouTube and practiced on my mom’s bathroom door and jewelry case—when she wasn’t at home. Mainly because Mom frowned on illegal activities as well, especially when they were done by her son, who the sun surely shined down upon, who the angels had blessed with all things wholesome and good, who walked around a trail of ants rather than stomp across them. FYI, I burned them with magnifying glasses when I was a kid. I prayed the angels were looking the other way at the time.

In any case, it was an old desk and a cheap lock, and there were bobby pins galore in that dressing room. Which is to say, Columbo would have been proud. Or maybe the fickle finger of fate was simply flipping someone off, preferably not me. And hey, I didn’t even need to put gloves on to hide my fingerprints because I was already wearing a pair—satin instead of rubber, but still.

The bobby pin went in, I did a few YouTube-inspired twists and turns, and, voila, I was in like Flynn. I quickly rummaged around inside. There was mostly jewelry inside, more expensive stuff, by the looks of it, then what was left on the countertops. There was some cash, too, but not much. Mostly, it was just knickknacks. Mostly. Mostly but not only.

“A key,” I said.

To which I got a rattling reply of, “What are you doing, Mary?”

I turned right quick and shut the makeup table door. Chad was standing there, not yet Lucy. Chad wasn’t supposed to be there. Chad had already done his two days. “First day on the job,” I replied, keeping my voice even, not speaking too fast, trying not to look guilty. I was good at that. I’d practiced, lying to baristas, to store clerks, meter maids. Making shit up off the fly. Takes some getting used to. When most people lie, you can tell. Politicians are good at it because they do it so often. Takes training, is what I’m getting at. Me, I was trained. Online, sure, but trained nonetheless. “Looking for some space for my valuables.” I tinkled my earrings his way. They were my mom’s. Valuable was a matter of opinion, namely mom’s. Ebay might have a different take on it.

He nodded as he walked in the room. “That’s my makeup table.” Chad didn’t seem as nice as Lucy. Maybe the wig did it. Turned on some nice-switch inside his brain. Lucy always seemed to be smiling. Chad definitely wasn’t as he drew nearer.

“I’m filling in for Connie,” I said. “Isn’t this her table, too?”

Chad shook his head. He eyed the now-closed drawer nervously. Chad, it seemed, wasn’t trained like I was. “That one,” he said, pointing at the table next to his. He grabbed for the drawer. It opened, of course. “This was locked.”

I shrugged. “Not just now. Maybe you forgot.”

He squinted at me. It was weird. We were friends, of a sort, except he suddenly looked anything but friendly. He thought to say something. His mouth began to move, then stopped. A smile appeared. Even out of drag, there was still this strange sadness behind it. He breathed. He seemed to have counted to ten, given that about ten seconds had gone by. “Yeah, I must’ve forgotten to lock it. My bad, Mary.” He reached out his hand. “Congrats on the gig.” The smile widened. “Chad, by the way.”

I shook his hand. “You make a nice boy.”

He chuckled. “I’ll tell my parents you said so.”

About Mary, Queen of Scotch…

Four five-star Yelp reviews do you little good when you’re nailed inside a giant barrel of whiskey, which is where our intrepid private detective Barry finds himself while on the case to help his campy drag friends, all of whom have numerous secrets to hide.

If he can decide between the man he once loved and the bartender he’s falling for, successfully stay undercover as his alter-ego, Mary, Queen of Scotch, and keep one step ahead of the bad guys, plus a raucously funny meddling mom, he just might live to see that much-desired fifth review.

About the Author

Rob Rosen is the award-winning author of the novels Sparkle: The Queerest Book You’ll Ever Love, Divas Las Vegas, Hot Lava, Southern Fried, Queerwolf, Vamp, Queens of the Apocalypse, Creature Comfort, FateMidlife Crisis, Fierce, And God Belched, and MaryQueen of Scotch, and editor of the anthologies Lust in Time, Men of the Manor, Best Gay Erotica 2015, and Best Gay Erotica of the Year, Volumes 1, 2, 3 and 4.

You can contact Rob at:

A MelanieM Review: Mary, Queen of Scotch by Rob Rosen

Standard

Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5

 

Four five-star Yelp reviews do you little good when you’re nailed inside a giant barrel of whiskey, which is where our intrepid private detective Barry finds himself while on the case to help his campy drag friends, all of whom have numerous secrets to hide.

If he can decide between the man he once loved and the bartender he’s falling for, successfully stay undercover as his alter-ego, Mary, Queen of Scotch, and keep one step ahead of the bad guys, plus a raucously funny meddling mom, he just might live to see that much-desired fifth review.

One of the things that just does it for me in a novel is well done dialog.  When an author nails it, has his character’s personalities fleshed out  so well, so dynamically that the words flying out of their mouths just snap with life, a vitality that rocks the reader’s world….well, job well done!   If that author can do it for more than one character but an entire cast?  Kudos and scotch.  In this case, a barrel full.

I will admit it almost did him in the beginning.  That first chapter where Barry explains, from the inside of a barrel of whiskey, how he got to the state he’s in was a little too scattered, too too, even for me, a lover of the big personality and free form inner conversations.  At places, you almost got lost in who Barry was and what was happening to him.  Luckily, Barry get the exposition out of the way. We understand that he’s a private investigator on a new case that entails him becoming a drag queen and, boom, there we are, hooked into another wonderful, weird Rob Rosen  adventure.

I was not prepared to find that my first loves in this book were Barry’s parents!  Jewish, hilarious, smart, devoted to each other and their son, the relationship between his mother and dad, parents and son, were among some of the best (and funniest) in the story. Each scene, whether with the mother or dad could have potentially veered into comedy because of the crackling dialog but the layers of understanding and love that hold those scenes up elevate above meer laughs into the acknowledgement and joy that comes from  the snarky back and forth salvos obtained from poking at people you care about.  That glint you see in the eye, that up turn on the side of the mouth before a comment is made.

And as always Rosen’s characters are a roll call of complexity, grittiness, depth, and, brash pizazz!  Most of them have been through the worst and still gotten back p on their Louboutin’s and started lip syncing.  How I love his drag queens!  This author gets under the skin of what it feels like to be a  drag queen, to be part of the sisterhood and pulls the reader in as well.

There’s a nifty mystery, a pretty realistic resolution, and yes, HFNs all around.  Barry and company are clearly I need to spend more time with, on and off the stage.   That includes his parents!

There’s romance, one Barry figures stuff out, lots of sex, mystery to solve, and all the wonderful characters and dialog this reader could want.

Even a Preface and a Afterword.  Don’t’ miss those.  You know I never do.

I love this author and Mary, Queen of Scotch is simply another great reason why.  The writing is wonderful.  the plot interesting and well made, and the characters easily people to take to heart.  I highly recommend it.

Cover: Written Ink Designs.  I start to laugh just seeing this cover.  Great job.

Sales Links:  JMS Books LLC  | Amazon

Book Details:

Kindle Edition, 227 pages
Published November 10th 2018 by JMS Books LLC
ASIN B07JXS5M8L
Edition Language English

Laura Lascarso on Research, Strip Clubs, and her new novel In the Pines (A Charlie Schiffer Mystery #1) (author interview and excerpt)

Standard

In the Pines (A Charlie Schiffer Mystery #1) by Laura Lascarso

Dreamspinner Press
Publication Date: October 23, 2018V

Cover Designer: AngstyG

Sales Links:  Dreamspinner Press | Amazon

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Laura Lascarso here today talking about writing, research, and her new release and series In the Pines (A Charlie Schiffer Mystery #1).  Welcome, Laura.

 

Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words Interview with  Laura Lascarso

 

The excerpt I’ve chosen to share is a scene from IN THE PINES, where our amateur sleuth Charlie Schiffer, and his love interest, Dare Chalmers, travel to Café Risqué, which is a real strip club just outside of Gainesville, Florida, in search of clues to Dare’s brother’s murder.

For those who are unfamiliar with this particular strip of I-75 in Central Florida, Café Risqué is something of a legend because it’s the only strip club within a hundred-mile radius, and all along the interstate are suggestively graphic signs pointing you in that direction. All throughout my college career at the University of Florida, friends would tell stories about their adventures at Café Risqué. I never made the pilgrimage myself, but I knew that I wanted to include a scene from it in my story, simply because it was such a magnet for local lore.

That’s where my research came in, and to my surprise, the best place to get actual details and information about the club wasn’t from their website, which was pretty sparse, but from their Yelp reviews. Here are a few of my favorites:

The ladies were nice and very sweet to me being a newcomer. I ordered chicken tenders with my side as rice and gravy. Thought it was an oddest thing to put on rice, so I ordered it. The gravy was good, just wish it was a little less than that. Not taking over the plate. Still an enjoyable dinner.

Often times when I’m embarking on a cross country expedition in my big rig 18-wheeler, I try to make Cafe Risque my first stop. Drop-in, take a shower, eat some food, make some new friends, then back on the road again! Definitely would recommend the Tuna Salad sandwich. Britney is also my favorite staff member and often times I think she lets me get in a free song or two.

I’ve been here. It’s amazing. I won’t say whether or not it’s a good amazing or a bad amazing. Just imagine 2 eggs over easy with bacon and toast. Then imagine a Reddick, FL native bringing it out to your table completely nude. I mean naked. If that’s not enough, imagine eating it while that same Reddick, FL native gives the guy next to you a lap dance.

I could go on, but you catch my drift. The most interesting thing to me, was that all of the Yelp reviews really focused on the food, with the dancers only being a second or sometimes third consideration. I suppose part of the reason is because Yelp tends to focus on the restaurant aspect of establishments, more so than the entertainment, but I found it fascinating nonetheless.

So, in this very sexually charged setting, I knew that I wanted for Charlie to be very uncertain and nervous (and a little judgmental) while also worried that he’s going to unintentionally offend one of the dancers. And I wanted for Dare to be cool and collected, and absolutely enjoying Charlie’s discomfort. I think I pulled it off, while also getting at some information important to the mystery itself. All in all, I think this is my favorite scene from IN THE PINES, and a good example of the balance I was trying to achieve between camp and sincerity.

Maybe one day I’ll take that trip to Café Risqué and give their chicken tenders with gravy a try.

The excerpt I’ve chosen to share is a scene from IN THE PINES, where our amateur sleuth Charlie Schiffer, and his love interest, Dare Chalmers, travel to Café Risqué, which is a real strip club just outside of Gainesville, Florida, in search of clues to Dare’s brother’s murder.

For those who are unfamiliar with this particular strip of I-75 in Central Florida, Café Risqué is something of a legend because it’s the only strip club within a hundred-mile radius, and all along the interstate are suggestively graphic signs pointing you in that direction. All throughout my college career at the University of Florida, friends would tell stories about their adventures at Café Risqué. I never made the pilgrimage myself, but I knew that I wanted to include a scene from it in my story, simply because it was such a magnet for local lore.

That’s where my research came in, and to my surprise, the best place to get actual details and information about the club wasn’t from their website, which was pretty sparse, but from their Yelp reviews. Here are a few of my favorites:

The ladies were nice and very sweet to me being a newcomer. I ordered chicken tenders with my side as rice and gravy. Thought it was an oddest thing to put on rice, so I ordered it. The gravy was good, just wish it was a little less than that. Not taking over the plate. Still an enjoyable dinner.

Often times when I’m embarking on a cross country expedition in my big rig 18-wheeler, I try to make Cafe Risque my first stop. Drop-in, take a shower, eat some food, make some new friends, then back on the road again! Definitely would recommend the Tuna Salad sandwich. Britney is also my favorite staff member and often times I think she lets me get in a free song or two.

I’ve been here. It’s amazing. I won’t say whether or not it’s a good amazing or a bad amazing. Just imagine 2 eggs over easy with bacon and toast. Then imagine a Reddick, FL native bringing it out to your table completely nude. I mean naked. If that’s not enough, imagine eating it while that same Reddick, FL native gives the guy next to you a lap dance.

I could go on, but you catch my drift. The most interesting thing to me, was that all of the Yelp reviews really focused on the food, with the dancers only being a second or sometimes third consideration. I suppose part of the reason is because Yelp tends to focus on the restaurant aspect of establishments, more so than the entertainment, but I found it fascinating nonetheless.

So, in this very sexually charged setting, I knew that I wanted for Charlie to be very uncertain and nervous (and a little judgmental) while also worried that he’s going to unintentionally offend one of the dancers. And I wanted for Dare to be cool and collected, and absolutely enjoying Charlie’s discomfort. I think I pulled it off, while also getting at some information important to the mystery itself. All in all, I think this is my favorite scene from IN THE PINES, and a good example of the balance I was trying to achieve between camp and sincerity.

Maybe one day I’ll take that trip to Café Risqué and give their chicken tenders with gravy a try.

About In The Pines

A Charlie Schiffer Mystery

When your high school crush is also your number one suspect, what’s a boy to do?

After the disappearance of Eastview High’s homecoming king, seventeen-year-old Charlie Schiffer must put his detective skills to work to help class heartthrob Dare Chalmers find his missing twin brother. From the gator-filled swamps of Paynes Prairie to the truck-stop strip club Café Risqué, there’s no situation too dicey for this amateur sleuth when he’s on the prowl for clues to this mystery.

Meanwhile, Dare is everything Charlie could want in a boyfriend—charismatic, handsome, polite—but as Charlie’s mother always says, the unlikeliest people can turn out to be criminals. When evidence surfaces revealing his suspects’ hidden motives, Charlie must dig deep to suss out who among them is innocent and who is guilty, even if it means betraying the man he cares for most.

 

Excerpt:

 

We headed out into the inky, starless night, southbound on I-75. All along the stretch of interstate between Gainesville and Ocala, Café Risqué billboards promised great food in a welcoming venue where “We bare all.” The billboards used to have a picture of this blonde woman from the eighties with feathered hair, which could have easily been mistaken for a teen pregnancy hotline or a missing persons advertisement. But in recent years, the business rebranded to feature silhouettes of busty women in provocative poses, and one in particular of a woman gripping a pole in ecstasy.

It seemed we were all chasing some ridiculous fantasy.

A trip to Café Risqué was something like a rite of passage for central Florida teens on the cusp of manhood, and one I’d always assumed I’d happily forgo due to my sexual orientation, and yet, there I was, racing to the famed truck stop with Dare in his sleek silver Jaguar, intent on looking for clues to the identity of Mason’s killer.

We arrived at about 10:00 p.m. Dare gave me Mason’s ID, which could pass for my own if the lighting was dim and the bouncer didn’t look too closely. Still, I was nervous about potentially breaking the law. The first place they’d call was the local police, who would contact my mom. She’d probably send someone to arrest me just to scare me straight.

The bouncer in question roved his flashlight over Dare’s ID and then over his person. Dare’s height made him look older, along with the scruff of a few days without shaving that had accumulated on his jaw. It was pretty sexy, actually, and I scolded myself for even looking at him in that way.

When it was my turn, the bouncer inspected me a little closer.

“You’re twins?” he asked while side-eyeing the both of us. “You don’t look alike.”

“Fraternal,” Dare clarified. He made a motion to move past the bouncer, who held out his hand to block him. The man turned to me.

“What’s up with your hair?”

“It grew out.”

“What’s your sign….” He squinted at the ID. “Mason?”

“Scorpio,” I said easily. I’d memorized that a long time ago.

“Where do you live?”

I recited the Chalmerses’s address. I had a knack for memorization. And riding past their house on my bike when I was at the height of my stalking phase didn’t hurt my recall either.

“You been drinking?” he flashed his light in my eyes, blinding me.

“No, sir,” I answered.

“All right, then.” He passed the ID back to me. “No funny business, and make sure you tip the ladies. They aren’t here for their health.”

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I entered into the surprisingly well-lit Café Risqué. It was kind of like when you built something up in your mind so much that the reality couldn’t possibly match up to your expectations. I wasn’t disappointed by the interior, not exactly, but it seemed so much smaller than I’d imagined. Other than the poles, it really did resemble a Denny’s or some other greasy spoon. There were booths along one side of the dining area and a bar that butted up to a small empty stage, where I assumed the main event would take place. There was also a side shop that sold ladies’ lingerie and pornographic DVDs, but overall, it was pretty underwhelming.

There were a few truckers in the booths, being served by women in revealing outfits, something like a costume you might pick up on a discount rack after Halloween—naughty nurse or curious co-ed. So far, nothing that lived up to the motto of “We bare all.”

Dare suggested we sit at the bar and soon after, a waitress approached us. She appeared to be in her late thirties, dyed red hair, heavy on the makeup, with her ample, freckled bosom squeezed into a cropped leather bustier. “What would you handsome fellas like to drink?” she asked with a salacious grin.

I knew from the signs out front they didn’t serve alcohol, which seemed a little strange to me, but if this venue really catered to truckers, then I supposed it wouldn’t do to get them liquored up while pulling an all-nighter. In fact, the idea of a place where truckers could get a square meal while also admiring naked women to help pass their long and lonely rides had an almost wholesome appeal.

“Cherry coke?” Dare asked, looking at me. He seemed perfectly comfortable with our situation and not at all put off by the strange mix of fry grease and sex pheromones circulating in the air.

“Coke’s good. Regular for me,” I said as I steered my eyes away from our server’s chest. I’d kind of zoned out there for a minute. She left us with two menus, and Dare scanned his dutifully.

“This is not what I was expecting,” he said in a low voice.

“No, me neither,” I admitted.

“I really can’t believe this.” He studied his menu with a look of deep concentration.

“What is it?” I thought perhaps he’d stumbled across a clue.

“The food’s actually very reasonably priced.”

I laughed out loud at Dare’s practicality. He glanced over with a small smile that acknowledged the sheer oddity of our situation. Our waitress, Cherry, returned soon after and took our order. Mine was a hamburger and curly fries. Dare’s was soup and salad, and I remembered what he’d told me before about how greasy food upset his stomach. As she was leaving, Dare grabbed her arm. “Wait a minute, if you would.”

“No touching, sweetie,” she said in an almost motherly fashion.

Dare released her immediately and apologized. “I was wondering if you’ve ever seen this man.” Dare pulled up a photo of him and Mason on his phone, the one taken from the pep rally with Mason in his singlet.

“You a cop?” she asked with dismay.

“No, ma’am. It’s my brother. He’s gone missing, and he used to come here from time to time, over the summer, I believe. I was wondering when he might have been here last. If you might have seen him?”

His sincere desperation came through in his appeal and Cherry took another hard look. “I don’t recognize him, but one of the late-night girls might.” She pointed to the stage, which was really just an extension of the bar and less than two feet in front of us. “They come on in about a half an hour, if you want to ask them.”

The place had a definite between-shift vibe. Cherry herself said she’d close out our order when she brought us our food. “It’s past my bedtime,” she said, yawning unapologetically as she collected the money for the food and her tip. Dare insisted on paying for my meal, but it wasn’t like we were on a date. More like he was paying my expenses.

We were just finishing our meal when the jukebox kicked on. I hadn’t noticed it before, but it stood in a dim corner of the room. There were a couple of burly men going over the choices with an almost academic fastidiousness.

I recognized the song after the first couple intro bars of a searing guitar riff: “Sweet Child of Mine” by Guns N’ Roses. Dare grabbed my arm. “Charlie, look.”

I turned. Onstage, among a cloud of fog and strobe lights, five women of varying ages, ethnicities, and statures entered the spotlights, wearing stilettos and nothing else.

“We bare all,” Dare said with wonder. As it turned out, Café Risqué’s motto was absolutely true. Dare handed me a stack of bills. “Time to splash some cash, Charlie.”

And then with a look of childlike glee, Dare made it rain.

I didn’t realize until after their performance, Dare was baiting the dancers. When they finished their set, the women circulated through the bar, offering up private dances to the patrons. All of them had their eyes on Dare. The first two women he slipped a twenty and showed them his phone, asked them if they’d ever seen Mason. They hadn’t but were happy to take his cash nonetheless. One of the women told Dare she’d give him a deep discount on a private dance on account of him being so easy on the eyes. It actually took quite a bit of the Chalmers’s charm to let her off easy.

The third woman, who was blonde, or perhaps wearing a blonde wig, was the closest to our age. She looked from the picture to Dare and said, “Private dances are forty bucks.”

I thought she was only angling for an upsale, but Dare seemed on board with it. “My friend Charlie here wants a dance. And I want to watch.”

“Each dance is forty. No freebies,” she studied me with a peculiar expression. I wiped my mouth, thinking there might be ketchup on my face.

“Lucky for me, I’m a rich bastard,” Dare replied.

The woman introduced herself as Crystal and led us to a back room where there were booths covered in red vinyl, kind of like a Pizza Hut. Easy to wipe clean, I thought and then shivered with disgust. About five feet away was a video camera recording everything that happened in the room. I prayed my mother never saw this footage.

“Don’t worry,” Crystal said, perhaps noticing my unease. “It doesn’t record sound.” She then gave us a list of rules, which included, among other things, no touching.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” I assured her, sweating profusely. I’d never seen a naked woman this close before, and even after watching Crystal grind and gyrate on the pole, having her practically on top of me felt criminal. Her boobs were everywhere. I didn’t know where to put my hands so I wouldn’t accidentally touch her, so I shoved them between my legs.

“Are you sure this is legal?” I asked Dare.

He gave me an amused look. “You’ll have to excuse my friend, Crystal. Charlie has a girlfriend, but like I told him, so long as there’s no touching, it’s not cheating. Am I right?”

“That’s right, baby,” she said, winking at Dare. A rap song came on, something fast with a deep bass line. Crystal straddled my knees, which were pressed tightly together. “Just relax now, baby. Crystal will make you feel all right,” she cooed in my ear. Her hair tickled my neck, and her heavy bosoms nearly brushed up against me.

“Maybe you should take this one,” I said to Dare, who sat to the side of us, watching with complete rapture. His arms stretched out along the top of the booth like this was an everyday occurrence. Funny thing was, his attention seemed more focused on me than the naked woman on my lap.

Dare shook his head with a huge smile on his face. He was really getting a kick out of this. “It’s your birthday, Bud. Just sit back and enjoy it. Let’s see what turns up.”

I gulped and pressed back as far as I could into the slightly reclined seat. It felt a little bit like being at the dentist’s office when you’re trying really hard not to get any of your bodily juices on the dental hygienist. But the more I retreated, the more Crystal advanced. She gyrated in lazy circles, cupping her boobs and pinching her nipples to perhaps add to the excitement. She moaned a little, trying to sell it. I wanted to squeeze my eyes shut and count in my head until it was over, but I didn’t want to be rude.

“Did you recognize my brother Mason?” Dare finally asked, studying her critically. He didn’t seem aroused in the least by her performance, just deadly focused on getting answers.

“I saw him in the news,” she said. “Is he… dead?”

“Yes, he is.” Dare ducked his head so that she wouldn’t see his face. Still, Crystal seemed sympathetic to his pain.

“I’m sorry. He seemed like a nice guy.”

“He was,” Dare said quietly. “So, you met him?”

“He came in here a couple times while I was on shift.” She reached down to spread my knees open, as though she could force me to relax. She grabbed my hands as if we were dance partners. I probably resembled a very stiff puppet.

“I thought there was no touching,” I said, feeling a little panicked.

“You can’t touch me, but I can touch you,” she said with a teasing smile. It made absolutely no sense to me. Touching was touching, but I didn’t want to argue the point with her.

“Did you see him with anyone else?” Dare asked.

“Yeah, a beefy red-headed kid. Bad attitude. He complained about the girls being fat. He was kind of an asshole, if I’m honest. Not your brother, though. He was a good tipper, just like you.” She dabbed Dare’s nose with the tip of her finger. He went cross-eyed for a moment and then drew his finger along the end of his nose where she’d touched him.

“Did it seem like my brother was just here to enjoy the entertainment, or was he meeting someone?” Dare asked.

Crystal turned around so I could get a full view of her bulbous butt, jumping up and down to the beat with practiced efficiency. At least now she couldn’t see me cower.

“There was another man here with them. Older. White hair and a fake tan. Looks like he works out a lot. He’s a regular.”

Dare leaned in closer. “When was the last time you saw him?”

“He’s here tonight,” she said. “He was sitting next to you at the bar.”

My mind flashed back to the guy she was describing. He was wearing a sleeveless shirt and a red bandana and his arms were grossly huge, like a Hulk Hogan wannabe. I suddenly knew what pills Mason had been taking.

“Steroids,” I said aloud.

Dare slumped back into his seat, realizing my meaning. A speaker piped up in the room. “Crystal, finish up. The cops are here.”

I glanced over at Dare. “It might be GPD.” As I was indisposed, Dare poked his head out of the room to take a look down the hallway. He turned back to the two of us, both of us having given up this charade and awaiting his word.

“One more favor, Crystal. You’ve got to get us out the back.” Dare laid a stack of bills on the red vinyl booth.

“Is it your girlfriend?” she asked with exasperation, as though that sort of thing happened frequently.

“Nope,” Dare said. “It’s Charlie’s mother.”

About the Author

Laura Lascarso wants you to stay up way past your bedtime reading her stories. She aims to inspire more questions than answers in her fiction and believes in the power of storytelling to heal and transform a society. When not writing, Laura can be found screaming “finish” on the soccer fields, rewatching Veronica Mars, and trying to convince politicians that climate change is real. She lives in North Florida with her darling husband and two kids. She loves hearing from readers, and she’d be delighted to hear from you.
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lascarso 
Twitter: @lauralascarso