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Lanyon has joined Joseph Hansen in power and is now poised to surpass him.

Drewey Wayne Gunn (author of The Gay Male Sleuth in Print and Film) for Reviewing the Evidence
In the third in the popular Adrien English series, the “ill-starred and bookish” mystery writer has to contend with a Satanic cult, a handsome university professor and his on-again/off-again relationship with the eternally conflicted LAPD Detective Jake Riordan.
And, oh, yes, murder…

The house was at the end of a cul-de-sac. One of those rectangular, L-shaped, ranch-style fixer-uppers that no one had bothered to fix up. It looked blue in the moonlight. The peeling shutters were blood-colored — possibly brown in the light of day. The attached garage sagged wearily on its posts. Apparently Angus wasn’t a big fan of HGTV.

For laughs, I walked to the front and tried the door. It was locked. I decided that was a good sign. I went around to the side gate. It was also locked, fastened by a padlock on the other side of the tall wooden gate.

I weighed alternatives while keeping an eye on the neighbor’s house. The windows next door were dark, so either no one was home, or everyone was in bed. I didn’t fancy getting snagged for burglary by a Citizen’s Watch zealot. I suspected Angus might not stay around long enough to back my story.

It was a reasonably sturdy gate. I decided it could likely take my weight. I grabbed the top board and swung myself up. I balanced briefly, the fence groaning in alarm. I jumped, landing in tall grass and weeds.

That had been easier than expected. I went around the corner of the house. The patio was a cement slab with a metal canopy. There was a selection of withered plants in pots of various sizes. I didn’t need to use my flashlight thanks to the dramatic full moon, and the fact that the dragon planter had been painted in Day-Glo paint. Red eyes glowed eerily from the shadows. I poked around in the dirt and dead twigs, found the key, and opened the sliding glass door.

I stepped inside. The place stank of cigarettes, marijuana, garbage…


The sound of my voice was startling in the emptiness of that house. I’d never been anywhere that felt so cold, so devoid of life.

I turned on the nearest lamp.

The room looked shockingly ordinary. No horned goat image painted on the walls, no altar festooned with black candles.

The shag carpet looked like Rice-A-Roni, and there was an assortment of furniture ready for the Goodwill, although, come to think of it, that was probably where Angus had purchased it. The coffee table was littered with music magazines and bills. There were several books on astrology, including a copy of The Devil’s Disciple by Garibaldi.

There was also a copy of The Satanic Bible. I felt the hair on the back of my neck rise at the sight of the ominous scarlet pentagram on that stark black cover.

After a moment I shook off my inertia, telling myself not to be an ass. I quickly shuffled through the papers scattered across the coffee table. No letters. I glanced around the room.

Not a single picture on the wall. Now that truly was weird.

I made tracks for the kitchen. It was disorderly, but not dirty, despite the persistent reek of garbage. A phone book lay open on the table. I glanced at the yellow pages: locksmiths. Was that significant?

Next to the fake oak cabinets was a bulletin board with photos of Angus and Wanda — Wanda in a giant sombrero, her face smeared in whipped cream. Birthday party, California style. There were a couple of postcards, a schedule of classes that neither of them was attending. That was about it.

All the while I searched, the quiet chill of the place gnawed at me. I began to feel like I was being watched. Every time the house creaked — and sometimes when it didn’t — I snapped to attention, staring about myself uneasily.

If I hadn’t already told Jake I would be there, I’d have walked out a dozen times. As it was, I’d been inside about eight minutes when I decided I’d had it. I would wait for Jake out front in the Forester. For that matter, I didn’t even know if Jake had got my message. He likely hadn’t. He hadn’t called me back. He was probably home in bed, sound asleep, right now. Which is where I would have been if I had any sense at all.

As I crossed the living room, heading for the glass door, it occurred to me that the sour sick smell that hung over the place like a pall was stronger from the hall that led to the bedrooms.

I stood rooted in the intersection of rooms, my mouth dry with dread.

Thank you and good night, I thought. At the same instant, I realized that I couldn’t walk away. Never mind the ethics of the situation, I’d touched the front door knob, the sliding glass door, the lamp — and those were the articles I knew for sure would retain fingerprints. The articles I remembered touching.

I could be wrong, I reassured myself. I was often wrong. More and more often, it seemed lately.

But I knew I wasn’t wrong. Not this time. Not about this.