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... spare, fluent prose and the dialogue rings true. Readers will be intrigued by the budding relationship which I suspect will develop in future books.

Marian Hussenbux, I Love A Mystery
Los Angeles bookseller and aspiring mystery author Adrien English finds himself the prime suspect when his employee–an old high school buddy (and more)–is been found stabbed to death in a back alley following a loud and very public argument the previous evening.
Naturally the cops want to ask Adrien a few questions–and when a few hours later someone breaks into Adrien’s shop and ransacks it, the law is inclined to think Adrien is trying to divert suspicion from himself.
Adrien knows better. Adrien knows he is next on the killer’s list.

**Originally published in print by Gay Men’s Press, 2000.

Cops before breakfast. Before coffee even. As if Mondays weren’t bad enough. I stumbled downstairs, unlocked the glass front doors, shoved back the ornate security gate and let them in: two plainclothes detectives.

They identified themselves with a show of badges. Detective Chan was older, paunchy, a little rumpled, smelling of Old Spice and cigarettes as he brushed by me. The other one, Detective Riordan, was big and blond, with a neo-Nazi haircut and tawny eyes. Actually I had no idea what color his eyes were, but they were intent and unblinking, as though waiting for a sign of activity from the mouse hole.

“I’m afraid we have some bad news for you, Mr. English,” Detective Chan said as I started down the aisle of books toward my office.

I kept walking, as though I could walk away from whatever they were about to tell me.

“…concerning an employee of yours. A Mr. Robert Hersey.”

I slowed, stopped there in front of the Gothic section. A dozen damsels in distress (and flimsy negligees) caught my eyes. I turned to face the cops. They wore what I would describe as “official” expressions.

“What about Robert?” There was a cold sinking in my gut. I wished I’d stopped for shoes. Barefoot and unshaven, I felt unbraced for bad news. Of course it was bad news. Anything to do with Robert was bound to be bad news.

“He’s dead.” That was the tall one, Riordan. He-Man.

“Dead,” I repeated.

Silence.

“You don’t seem surprised.”

“Of course I’m surprised.” I was, wasn’t I? I felt kind of numb. “What happened? How did he die?”

They continued to eye me in that assessing way.

“He was murdered,” Detective Chan said.

My heart accelerated, then began to slug against my ribs. I felt the familiar weakness wash through me. My hands felt too heavy for my arms.

“I need to sit down,” I said.

I turned and headed back toward my office, reaching out to keep myself from careening into the crowded shelves. Behind me came the measured tread of their feet, just audible over the singing in my ears.

I pushed open my office door, sat heavily at the desk and opened a drawer, groping inside. The phone on my desk began to ring, jangling loudly in the paperback silence. I ignored it, found my pills, managed to get the top off, and palmed two. Washed them down with a swallow of whatever was in the can sitting there from yesterday. Tab. Warm Tab. It had a bracing effect.

“Sorry,” I told LA’s Finest. “Go ahead.”

The phone, which had stopped ringing, started up again. “Aren’t you going to answer that?” Riordan inquired after the fourth ring.

I shook my head. “How did —? Do you know who —?”

The phone stopped ringing. The silence was even more jarring.

“Hersey was found stabbed to death last night in the alley behind his apartment,” Chan answered.

Riordan said, without missing a beat, “What can you tell us about Hersey? How well did you know him? How long had he worked for you?”

“I’ve known Robert since high school. He’s worked for me for about a year.”

“Any problems there? What kind of an employee was he?”

I blinked up at Chan. “He was okay,” I said, at last focusing on their questions.

“What kind of friend was he?” Riordan asked.

“Sorry?”

“Were you sleeping with him?”

I opened my mouth but nothing came out.

“Were you lovers?” Chan asked, glancing at Riordan.

“No.”

“But you are homosexual?” That was Riordan, straight as a stick figure, summing me up with those cool eyes, and finding me lacking in all the right stuff.

“I’m gay. What of it?”

“And Hersey was homosexual?”

“And two plus two equals a murder charge?” The pills kicking in, I felt stronger. Strong enough to get angry. “We were friends, that’s all. I don’t know who Robert was sleeping with. He slept with a lot of people.”

I didn’t quite mean it that way, I thought as Chan made a note. Or did I? I still couldn’t take it in. Robert murdered? Beaten up, yes. Arrested, sure. Maybe even dead in a car crash — or by autoerotic misadventure. But murdered? It seemed so unreal. So…Film At Eleven.

I kept wanting to ask if they were sure. Probably everyone they interviewed asked the same question.

I must have been staring fixedly into space because Riordan asked abruptly, “Are you all right, Mr. English? Are you ill?”

“I’m all right.”

“Could you give us the names of Hersey’s — uh — men friends?” Chan asked. The too-polite “men friends” put my teeth on edge.

“No. Robert and I didn’t socialize much.”

Riordan’s ears pricked up. “I thought you were friends?”

“We were. But —”

They waited. Chan glanced at Riordan. Though Chan was older I had the impression that Riordan was the main man. The one to watch out for.