Join Josh's Newsletter and receive an exclusive audio book! Exclusive audio offer!

A damn good read is the consensus for this witty, tightly plotted thriller, a follow-up to the popular Fatal Shadows. If you like your detective fiction to be gay and entertaining, this is the book for you.

Bookseller Adrien English arrives at the Pine Shadow Ranch (left to him by a beloved grandmother) to find a corpse in his driveway. But by the time the unfriendly local sheriffs arrive, the body has disappeared.
What happened to the missing body? Who are the mysterious strangers excavating on Adrien’s land? And will he ever sort out his problems with LAPD Detective Jake Riordan– heavily into S/M sex but not so hot on relationships?

**Originally published in print by Gay Men’s Press, 2002

Fast approaching the stage of exhaustion where I wasn’t sure if I was still driving or if I was only dreaming I was still driving, I nearly missed the turn off. The next ten miles were a challenge to the Bronco’s shocks as well as my own, but at last I recognized the landmark of Saddleback Mountain and knew the Pine Shadow Ranch lay right around the next bend.

I downshifted as we began our descent. The Bronco rattled across a cattle guard. Ahead, the ranch lay motionless in the bright moonlight; from a distance it seemed untouched by time. Despite the dark windows and empty corrals I could almost convince myself that I was coming home, that someone waited to welcome me.

Drawing closer, I discerned the sign mounted on wooden posts above the open gate. Wood-burned letters had once spelled out, Pine Shadow Ranch. I slowed; the Bronco’s high beams picked out a number of forms in the darkness: the ramshackle barn behind the house, a tilting windmill, a fractured swing dangling from one of the trees — and something on the ground.

I braked. I was so wired I was willing to believe my eyes were playing tricks, but as I waited there, the Bronco’s engine idling, the thing on the ground showed no sign of disappearing.

Too tired to be cautious, I climbed out of the Bronco. It was no trick of light, no play of shadows. A man lay face down in the dirt.

I circled him, my footsteps unnaturally loud in the clear night. From across the yard I could hear a broken shutter banging. Wind rustled the tall winter grass. I knelt beside him.

I could see in the headlights that his face was turned to the side. His eyes were wide open, but he wasn’t alive. His breath didn’t cloud the raw air, his shoulders didn’t rise and fall. There was a neat hole the size of a quarter between his shoulder blades.

I sucked in my breath. This wasn’t my first contact with murder, but I still got that sensation of watching from a separate solar system — which usually precedes passing out cold. I rubbed my hand across my face. It was like one of those party games where you have thirty seconds to memorize a dozen objects; inevitably you see details instead of the big picture.

The dead man looked to be in his sixties maybe. His hair was thin, plastered to his head. He was grizzled, his fingernails were dirty. He wore faded jeans, a plaid flannel shirt and cowboy boots. I had never seen him before, or if I had I didn’t recognize him.

Reaching out to touch his wrist, a shock rippled through me like I had not been properly grounded.

He was still warm.

I jerked my head up and stared at the silent house. I looked to the surrounding hills, the sentinel trees.

The wind whispered in the pines. Otherwise nothing moved. All was still. In fact … too still.

Staring into the windswept darkness I became convinced someone was out there watching me. The hair prickled at the nape of my neck. My heart began to give my ribs the old one-two; a left and a right and then a left left left.

I don’t have time for this, I warned my uncooperative ticker as I slammed back into the Bronco. Reversing in a wide arc, I put pedal to the metal, bumping and banging down the pot hole-riddled road racing back the way I had come.