Saturday, December 25, 2021

Advent Calendar Day 25 - MERRY CHRISTMAS!


Well, my dears, we've come to the end of another Advent Calendar. 

My sincere thanks to Meg Perry, Natasha Chesterbrook, Haldis, Almathea, Steve Leonard, and Karan Kapszukiewicz (who contributed the first post of next year's calendar ;-)). This calendar would not have been nearly as much fun for everyone without your talent and generosity!

This was such a tough year in so many ways, but I'm hopeful and excited for 2022. 

I wish each of you every possible happiness this holiday season--and in the coming year. 

Friday, December 24, 2021

Advent Calendar Day 24



This is something special, but it's been a rough year for everyone, and maybe you could use something special? 

As you probably know, I have a Patreon, and in 2019 I wrote an exclusive coda to The Monuments Men Murders, which I then had the always-wonderful and super-talented Kale Williams narrate.

I thought you might enjoy listening to that coda on this morning--especially since (fingers don't fail me now!) we should FINALLY see the release of The Movie-Town Murders at the end of February. 


Thursday, December 23, 2021

Holiday Coda 63 - Cosmo Saville and John Galbraith

John was in bed, reading over what looked like police reports, when I materialized in the shadowy corner of our bedroom.

He glanced up absently, turned a page, did a doubletake.

I grinned, shook my hair back. “Hello.”

“I didn’t hear you come in.” John set the stack of papers aside, leaned back against the pillows, folding his arms behind his head and regarding me thoughtfully. “You’re home early. How was your solstice party?”

My grin grew wider still as I padded toward the bed. “Mah-vell-ous.”

Yes, yes, I’d had quite a bit to drink. Which Pyewacket, curled in the window seat, couldn’t resist commenting on.


“Meow, yourself!” I retorted.

John’s expression remained grave, though there was an amused glint in his amber eyes. “What happened to your clothes? Or should I ask?”

I crawled onto the bed and did my sleekest, slinkiest impersonation of a panther on the prowl. It’s possible I even growled at him because John made a sound very like a tiger would make if tigers could chuckle.

“What happened to your clothes?” I replied cunningly.

John said gravely. “I took them off for bed.” 

That is correct!” I cried, and pounced.

John’s arms closed around me, and somehow, he rolled over, blankets, sheets, and all, so that I was pinned beneath him, cushioned in a snowbank of pillows, blinking up into his bright, glittery eyes.

Last year, I'd spent last solstice with Andy playing drinking (and scrying) games in my old apartment. Twelve months later my entire world had changed.  

"There are leaves in your hair," John said.

"And mistletoe on my mind."

He made a sound of amusement. 

“What are you going to do now, my witch?” His voice was soft, his breath warm against my face, his lips inches from my own.

I purred, “Let me show you,” and twitched my nose at the lamp.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Holiday Fiction from Steve Leonard!


Good morning, my dears! Only three--COUNT 'EM THREE!!!!!--days until Christmas! 

I'm thrilled at the return of our dear and talented pal Steve Leonard to the Advent Calendar. Here's a lovely bit of comfort and joy to start your day

Secrets and Scrabble Coda
Jack and Ellery


This Coda was inspired by three things Josh mentioned in the Secrets and Scrabble books, but since Jack and Ellery have yet to celebrate their first Christmas together, you might want to take this story with a big grain of salt.


Arf! Arf! Arf!

“Woah! Easy there, Watson!” Ellery chastised as he stumbled his way through the front gate to Jack’s bungalow, nimbly attempting to untangle his legs from the leash the excited pup seemed intent on wrapping around them. Watson was hopping and yipping with unbridled joy at the sight of Jack’s house, and all efforts by Ellery to shush him had fallen on deaf ears. Of course, as Jack was fond of pointing out, any attempt by Ellery to reprimand Watson was akin to trying to change the direction of the wind. Or something like that.

Christmas lights twinkled merrily around the eaves and windows of Jack’s little beach cottage and, not for the first time, it gave Ellery pause. As Chief of Police of Pirate’s Cove, Jack worked long hours and then spent many of his nights with Ellery up at Captain’s Seat. So, where Jack had found the time to deck his halls, not to mention help Ellery decorate both Captain’s Seat and the Crow’s Nest, was beyond him. But he was touched. When he and Jack had started seeing each other a few months back, Jack’s cottage had seemed downright spartan. Now it looked and felt homey and lived in and comfortable. The thought lifted Ellery’s already bright spirits and he felt his face curve into a smile.

Speaking of Jack… Ellery cast a glance over his shoulder and watched as a slightly tipsy and adorably disheveled Jack carefully negotiated his way up the front steps, keys in hand. 

They had just come from the Salty Dog, where the Scallywags and the Silver Sleuths had thrown together a joint Christmas Eve cocktail party. Ellery didn’t think Jack was going to be able to join them, what with a series of winter storms the past two weeks that had wreaked havoc on Buck Island and had kept the small police force and first responders constantly busy. So, it was a very pleasant surprise when an exhausted-looking Jack, still in uniform, had trudged into the pub shortly after nine and made a beeline for him.

            “Those Tipsy Mermaids really pack a punch,” Jack said, as if reading Ellery’s mind.
“And I didn’t even have that many.”

            “Hmm,” Ellery murmured, working to keep a straight face as Jack fumbled to get the key into the lock. Ellery had never seen Jack in this condition, mild as it was, and he was amused at how Jack furrowed his brow in concentration – and consternation – as he struggled to get the key into the slot. Once. Twice. Thrice. Finally, Ellery decided to throw his boyfriend a lifeline (also, it was freezing outside) and mercifully took the keys from him.

            “I only had two,” Jack insisted as Ellery opened the door and ushered him and a still dancing Watson inside. Jack peeled his jacket off, tossed it onto the leather club chair, and flopped onto the tailored blue sofa. “Two,” he repeated, holding up three fingers. He looked at them quizzically, brow furrowed again, and lowered one finger. “I mean three,” he amended. “Three. That’s not enough to get drunk, is it?”

Ellery laughed. “You had four,” he corrected, leaning over the back of the sofa and waving four fingers under Jack’s nose. “Well, three and a half, but who’s counting?”

Jack sighed. “Those Silver Sleuths sure can put the booze away.”

“Not to mention the Scallywags,” Ellery called from the kitchen where he was rummaging through the refrigerator.

            “How do you do it?”

            Ellery came back with two bottles of water, handed one to Jack, and joined him on the sofa. “Well, first of all: I only had two. Second: I’ve had time to” – he used air quote – “acclimate to them. Trust me, when I first joined the Scallywags, Libby probably could’ve outdrunk me.”

            They both laughed and finished their water.

“Anyway, I’m sorry about this,” Jack said after a while, leaning back against the cushion and closing his eyes. “I know you wanted to go back to Captain’s Seat tonight so we could spend Christmas morning there, but I’m exhausted and, well, you know the rest.”

Ellery brushed his shoulder companionably against Jack’s. “Christmas is wherever you are, Jack.”

The shy smile that lit Jack’s face made him look boyish and it warmed Ellery. He took Jack’s hand and held it. They were both quiet for a few minutes.

            “This is going to be all over the village by morning,” Jack said finally, frowning down at their joined hands. “I’ll never live it down.”

“What will be all over the village? Live what down?”

“This,” he gestured to himself with a humorless laugh. “Me. Jack Carson, Pirate’s Cove’s Chief of Police, drunk in public. In uniform, no less.” He shook his head. “All those Silver Sleuths there? I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before it’s on the cover of the Scuttlebutt Weekly. I’m surprised Sue hasn’t called for a comment yet.”

Ellery was glad Jack hadn’t singled out Nora. While Nora was known to be a notorious gossip, she had been working on reforming her ways over the past several months. However, there was some truth to what Jack had said, but Ellery chose not to dwell on it, deciding instead to shift the subject. “You weren’t drunk,” he said.


“No, Jack.” Ellery cut him off. “Hear me out. You didn’t look drunk when we left the Salty Dog. Are you now? Maybe. I mean, with as many as you had, how could you not be?” He grinned when Jack playfully elbowed him. “But those Mermaids didn’t hit you until after we left and were halfway here.”

Jack looked up, his eyes uncertain. “Really? You’re not just saying that?”

“Yes, really, and no, I’m not just saying that.” He snuggled closer. “Plus, I was keeping track.”

“Keeping track?”

Now it was Ellery’s turn to smile shyly. “I know from first-hand experience how a Tipsy Mermaid can sneak up on you. It’s no secret the bartenders at the Salty Dog have a heavy pour. So yes, I was keeping track. I know how important your reputation is to you and I would never do anything – or let anything happen – to risk that.”

            Jack breathed a sigh of relief. He really did look visibly relieved. “Thank you, Ellery. I owe you.”

“Of course, Jack,” Ellery said, puzzled. “What’s this really about, though? Are you all right?”

Jack shrugged. He didn’t look Ellery’s way when he answered. “I guess I’m not used to you caring as much as I do.”

Ouch. Ellery was taken aback by Jack’s admission, but he recognized the precarious situation for what it was and pressed on delicately. “Oh, Jack,” he said earnestly, putting his palm against Jack’s cheek and gently turning his head so they were facing each other. “I do care. Of course, I do.” Jack’s eyes were downcast and Ellery had to dip his head to look into his blue-green eyes. “Hey, look at me. I care. And I’m sorry if I haven’t said it before. If I haven’t made it clear before now how much I care for you – and I do, so much – let me do that now.” He leaned in and kissed Jack, then kissed him again, deepening it as he pressed him against the sofa. He felt Jack eventually open to him, kissing him back, tentative at first, and then urgently, almost frantic, before finally relaxing beneath him. He tasted of stale coffee, the tartness of the alcohol, and the uniqueness that was himself.

Arf! Arf! Arf! 

They both jumped. “Oh my goodness, I think somebody’s hungry,” Ellery chuckled, reaching down to scritch Watson’s ears. “Speaking of, do you want anything to eat, Jack? Maybe a night cap?”

Jack cleared his throat. Wiped at his eyes. “Sure, that actually sounds nice. There’s a gift pack of meats and cheeses in the fridge.”

Ellery got up to tend to Watson and fix a tray for Jack and himself. When he came back into the living room, the lights were dimmed, the tree was trimmed, and the gas fireplace was ablaze. Jack was back on the sofa, Watson curled up on his lap softly snuffling as Jack, eyes closed, softly stroked the pup.

His eyes opened when Ellery set the tray down and he smiled tiredly as he sat up, dislodging a clearly unhappy Watson.

Arf! Arf! Arf!

Watson protested indignantly as he tumbled to the floor, but quickly changed his tune when he spied the dish of kibble Ellery had brought him.

“Yes, you’re all better now, aren’t you?” Ellery cooed as Watson attempted to dive head-first into his food dish, scarfing down his dinner as if it were his first meal in a week. Ellery rolled his eyes and poured a splash of brandy into his and Jack’s eggnog. Jack tapped the screen of his phone a few times and the soft strains of holiday music came on over the stereo system.

“In my family it’s a Christmas Eve tradition that we each open a gift of the other’s choosing,” Ellery said, handing Jack his drink and settling in close to him. While most of their gifts were under the ten-foot Fraser fir at Captain’s Seat, there was a small scattering of packages under Jack’s tree.

Jack took Ellery’s hand and squeezed it. “I like that tradition. In fact, I like the idea of making some of our own holiday traditions.”

“Jack.” They kissed again, slower now. Relaxed. Gentle. Like they had all the time in the world. And, really, didn’t they?

“Wait,” Ellery said, pulling back. “Did you say you ‘owe me’?”

Jack looked puzzled. “What? Oh, sure. I do.”


“Sure,” Jack said again as reached for a cracker. He suddenly stopped and looked back at Ellery with suspicion in his eyes. “Wait a minute, what are you thinking— Oh, no, Ellery, I told you before, I’m not playing Strip Scrabble.”

            “Why not?” Ellery pouted, even as his eyes gleamed with mischief. “You said anything.”

“Because,” Jack said, blushing, which Ellery found completely adorable, “even on my best of day you’d cream me.” He winced and his cheeks turned an even deeper shade of red when he realized what he said. “I mean,” he corrected, looking everywhere but at Ellery, “you’d have me in the buff in two minutes flat.”

            “And the problem with that is what?” Ellery asked innocently, mentally inventorying the contents of the wet bar at Captain’s Seat. (Note to self: More Tipsy Mermaids for Jack!)

            “The problem with that?” Jack spluttered, incredulous. He turned to face a beaming Ellery. “The problem with that is… well… there is no problem because I don’t own a Scrabble board!”

            “Well…” Ellery drew out the word as he leaned forward and selected a festively wrapped package from under the tree. He handed it to Jack with a look of triumph on his face. “You do now.”

            Jack’s “gulp” was all audible over the Christmas carols playing on the stereo.

            Arf! Arf! Arf!



Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Holiday Fiction from Almathea!

I'm sure you remember Almathea's wonderful last year's contribution to the Advent Calendar. Well, as busy as she is, she still found time to send another sweet holiday tidbit ("sent with love from Belgium") 

The perfect heart-warmer for a brisk and chilly Tuesday Solstice morn. ;-)

 DRIVING AWAY FROM HOME FOR CHRISTMAS (Carter & John from Murder Takes the High Road)


I was happy.

Like drowning in absolute contentment and warm serenity as I sipped my coffee from the couch, ogling my perfect fiancé in the open kitchen of our Los Angeles home. John was making the Christmas breakfast while singing and shaking his butt to the pop version of a Holliday tune.

Well, almost perfect fiancé. As pleasant as John’s baritone was, he couldn’t stay in tune to save his life. But the way he was moving around the kitchen island was a sight to behold, something I suspected I would never grow tired of.

Never as in « till death to us part ». That kind of never.

This was the life I  had hoped to find with Trevor. And had finally found on the Scottish roads leading to Samradh Beag and murder. The end of a highly controversial existence for Vanessa mirroring a new beginning for me. All the irony and paradox of life one could say. But THIS was what I had always wanted. Love with a caring, reliable and funny man. Spending the Christmas day together with tokens of affection brightly wrapped under the glittering tree. Trust and companionship. Indulgence and complementarity. A few hassles here and there followed by mind blowing make-up sex. Being one half of a healthy couple.

I snuggled up in the couch purring like a sated fat cat and thought back about the three last years while enjoying my cozy surroundings.


After living Castle Dìomhair, we had toured Scotland on our own, each passing day deepening the connection between us. We had returned to the US together and parting at the airport had been very hard. We had started to officially date, seeing each other as often as we could. Sometimes we had only a day or so together so we met halfway in a nice hotel in Santa Ana. We were staying at each other’s place when we could grab a few days.

The hardest times were when John had to put his Knight armor back on to chase his four-headed Nemesis, aka the Scherfs/Rice gang. Of course, it gave me all the time needed to take care of my garden and catch up with my pile of books waiting to be read. I even found a new favorite mystery writer who added a dash of gay romance to her stories, making it perfect to share the best titles with John via Kindle. A bond of sort to link us while apart and good conversation topic whenever he called. Because sex phone ? So frustrating. Take my word on this matter. But reading or gardening alone were poor substitutes to John. So it was a huge relief when he finally gathered the evidence he had needed to have the thieves arrested by mid December.


We spent our first Christmas day together at my place only months after we had met. While we were cuddling in front of « Love Actually », John had suddenly announced that he was fed up of chasing the bad guys all around the globe and tired of driving across Orange County. He had asked for a transfer to Case Analyst at the Los Angeles branch of Birch.

That decision had led to me to suggest him moving into my house. John never said yes. Not in so many word. But the battered couch never recovered from his athletic sweaty agreement and had to be

replaced by John’s.

For a time I kept in touch with the members of our Scottish tour, at least the ones of the unhomicidal kind. But as time went by, life drove us in different directions. I still kept exchanging a few mails a month with Rose and Nedda. And strangely enough, Sally Daly, who had remarried to a nice cop, had become my absolute BFF. We got together at least once a year and skyped every week. She was the one who had squealed the most acute -even worse than my mom indeed- when John and I got engaged. She was also the one who had told me that Trevor and Vance were still together but playing « I love you / Neither do I » on a regular basis. Talk about a toxic relationship ! I almost felt sorry for them now that I was in a good one. Emphasis on « almost ».

Today was our third Christmas together and I wanted still more of John. Our stay-at-home life probably seemed cushy to some of our friends but it actually was as blissful as can be. I couldn’t think of one more thing to ask Santa. Apart from the latest book from my new Gay Mystery Grande Dame obviously.


A kiss on the nose brought me back to the here and now.

A chuckling John was handing me a plate heaped with delicacies with one hand and another mug of coffee spiked with liqueur de chocolat -a delicious chocolate liquor we had discovered the previous year while touring continental Europe and stopping over in Brussels- and cinnamon powder.

We ate and drank while opening our presents. It was a perfect Christmas morning. Finally their was only one present left. A small flat black box with golden accents and ribbons. John’s eyes were full of anticipation when he put it on my lap. « Come on handsome, open it » he said.

I couldn’t help from laughing, knowing a new adventure was coming. My love had had the exact same expression when he offered me the plane tickets to Europe last year. Or when he proposed to me in Paris.

Still, I was puzzled when I opened the box to find a black silk band and a slip of paper stating « Voucher for a mysterious tour starting now. »

I felt dumbfounded. Did he really want to trade our deliciously quiet Christmas day for juggling with suitcases in an airport ? « Now ? What do you mean now ? We can’t leave now ! I must ask for vacation time to the library. Plus Sally is flying from New Mexico today and I don’t want to miss meeting with my three-year-long-new-bestie ! Also we must do the dishes, put the trash out, do some laundry, get visas and passports, pack, ask the neighbors to… » I cried.

But John interrupted my sound check list with a bark of laughter and an arm thrown over my shoulders.

« Chill, babe. I already took care of everything. I asked your boss to give you two weeks off eight months ago when I heard about this event. No visa or passport needed as we won’t even leave California. Don’t worry about Sally, she knows already. I warned the neighbors and packed most of the stuff we will need yesterday and completed our bags this morning while you were in the shower. And you were daydreaming, your chin on your empty mug, as I took care of the rest. So let’s go brush our teeth so we can be on our way » was his unrelenting answer.

I was still trying to process this… This premediated Christmurder as John dragged me in the bathroom upstairs, took our tooth brushes to the office room where the bags were hidden, then dragged me back to the living room. I may have complained too. Just a bit.
But when he grabbed the band of fabric and blindfolded me with it, I had to took some control back.

« Huh ? Listen honey, I got it. You’re really excited with your secret treat and all the cloak and dagger prep work but a blindfold ? Really ? Don’t you feel like you’re exaggerating a little ? » I tried.
He deadpanned. « Nope. It is not. It’s a multi-layered surprise and I want you to embrace it all. »

I was still trying to argue and dragged my staggering feet while John guided me to the passenger seat of his car. Two bags in the trunk later, we were heading to where the hell knew.


Reading mystery books teaches you a few useful things. Like the victim of an abduction should ever try to orientate themselves using their other senses. So I knew we were in Downtown L.A. when we reached our mysterious destination. Allright, allright. No need to call on my Spidey senses much when the drive had not been much longer than twenty minutes and I could hear honks.

« I’ll come back later to fetch our stuff » John said.

I was still hesitating between the thrill of such a planned surprise and longing for our comfy couch, as I was guided again. From a streetwalk through what was clearly a door helped open for us and inside a big hall of some sort, judging by the excited conversations echoing all around like a sea of voices. John made me stop a few feet only from the entrance. I could make out some rustling noises just in front of me.

John removed the blindfold. I blinked my eyes a few times under the bright lights of the sumptuous Millennium Biltmore Hotel lobby. And then I saw…

« SURPRISE !!! » several voices shouted.

I found myself facing five huge smiles sported by as many blast from the past persons. I didn’t even have time to fully realize before my long distance best friend Sally rushed to crush me in an overexcited hug, followed by a still very dynamic Rose Lane, a pair of amused Nedda and Wally Kramer and a quieter Alison Barnes. All the people I had kept in touch since the the Fall of the Rayburn House. Except for Alison.

« Guys, what are you doing… » I wasn’t able to finish my sentence before my friends -well except for Alison again- all started to talk together at the same time.

« Merry Christmas C.! Oooh it was so hard to keep it all secret each time we skyped ! John should reward me just for my silence ! » I think it was Sally’s voice.

« Hey Carter, long time no see. It seems you really had no clue ? Such a mystery buff you are ! » The teasing sounded like Rose.

« I was so happy when John reached out about this tour ! My poor Wally never had a chance to deny me this trip. » Okay, that was clearly Nedda.

I felt dizzy. And happy to see my friends from Scotland again -maybe not so much for Alison. I also felt at loss. So very very much at loss.

John embraced me from behind, his familiar hands clasped on my stomach as he explained :

« This is the first half of your gift. We won’t travel alone but with people you trust. »

Wait ! Since when were « Alison » and « trust » used in the same sentence ?

« I’ve always been sorry that the Vanessa Rayburn tour had ended so badly. Especially after I ruined your ultimate encounter with her. So I wanted to give you some of it back. This is the second half of the gift :  we will be part of the very first tour ever made about your new Mystery Queen ! Which happens to be organized by Alison. »

Alison’s waved her hand with a proud smile on her face.

« After what happened to Vanessa, we obviously had to shut down the Tour to Die For. It took me three long years to launch this one. But here we are ! With the same basics, like visiting some places of inspiration and ending with a few days with our literary star, but also a totally new concept. Of course I can’t tell you more. »

She winked.

« It’s really nice to have you with us Carter. And all of you. I hope we can catch up later. For now sorry but I have to get to work. I know you’ll have the time of your life on this tour ! » And on these words she purposely strode toward a large gathering of people.

I turned to my fiancé, overflowing with delight.


« So I’m going to meet her ? Wow that’s amazing ! »

I heartfully kissed my wonderful John, under my friends’ catcalls.

« I just happen to love you. Merry Christmas Carter » John said against my lips.

With no bed in sight, I had to break the rising heat between us. And nothing does that job as well as a snarky comment.

« Okay so another writer tour with seven of the twenty one participants of the Rayburn one. What could go wrong ? »

« Everything Babe. Everything » John answered playfully.

I blinked to my chuckling beloved while Alison clapped her hands together.

« Everybody ! Everybody ! I just got word. Can the Josh Lanyon’s Fatal Tour people please gather near me ? »

At that moment a steely female voice echoed in the hall.

« It was about time ! When you consider how much we’re paying for this trip, making us wait standing in a hall is absolutely unacceptable ! »

We all turned with a chill toward the voice but we couldn’t see the woman from where we were standing.

John and I looked at each other with eyes going huge and mouths rounding like an O as we groaned in perfect unison.

« Oh no… »






Monday, December 20, 2021

Advent Calendar Day 20

 OOPS. Totally miscounted my posts! Sorry about that.

So today I'm going to share a snippet from the long-awaited Fatal Shadows The Collector's Edition (Which will probably not be out before the end of the year, but will be out shortly after-ish). 

One of the little bonuses in the collector's edition is the first chapter of Fatal Shadows written from Jake's POV. 

Because... Why not? ;-D


Murder for breakfast.

Hard to remember there had been a time when a crime scene like the one they’d left would have kept his stomach roiling for hours. Now… Well, the day a hacked-up corpse in an alleyway didn’t bother him was the day he’d turn in his badge, so thank Christ for strong coffee.

Their prime suspect—no, keep an open mind—their person of interest was a Pasadena bookseller by the name of Adrien English. Medium height, slim, and smooth-skinned as a boy, despite the black stubble and heavy-lidded eyes. Blue eyes. The bluest eyes Jake had seen on a human. More confused than concerned as he unlocked the glass doors and pushed back the security gate.

“Hey. What’s this about?” He looked from Jake to Chan, then back to Jake. He licked his lips nervously, and Jake felt that old, uneasy stirring.

Christ. Not even his type. Not remotely his type.

Queer, though.

They showed their badges, and Chan began to explain what it was about, while their suspect—person of interest—murmured something vague about talking in his office.

Why? The store was closed.

Maybe he had a weapon in his office?

Unlikely. But you could take nothing for granted. Not in their line of work. People could surprise you, and rarely in good ways.

The waifish—was that the word? Maybe not. He was slight but not exactly boyish—and what did it matter anyway? English led the way through a forest-worth of bookshelves while Chan talked to his retreating back.

Was he trying to lose them in the maze? Jake’s mouth curled sardonically.

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

The soles of English’s bare feet flashed a well-scrubbed pink as he stumbled to a stop, and finally turned to face them.

“What about Robert?” 

Did he know? Hard to tell. His tone was guarded. His gaze was guarded.

“He’s dead.”

Jake was deliberately blunt, hoping for a real reaction. He wasn’t sure if he got it or not. English went perfectly still.

“Dead,” he said at last.

They waited for the questions innocent people asked. How? When? Where?

English said nothing.

Jake said, “You don’t seem surprised.”

Twin splotches of pink appeared on English’s elegant cheekbones. “Of course I’m surprised.”

Yeah, except he just didn’t seem all that surprised.

Belatedly, English began to ask the obvious questions. “What happened? How did he die?”

“He was murdered,” Chan said.

They’d been doing this a long time. They didn’t even have to look at each other to know what the other was thinking. And what they were both thinking was guilty.

But maybe not. Because English lost color as he seemed to absorb the words. He wavered, ghost-like. The little blue hammer of his pulse began to bang at his collarbone. His eyelashes fluttered like his eyes were about to roll back in his head. Christ, was he going to faint? Jake glanced at Chan. Chan looked uneasy but suspicious.

They were in the suspicious business.

But maybe, maybe they had this wrong.

English murmured, “I need to sit down,” wheeled, and continued to his office. The fingertips of his right hand unobtrusively brushed the edges of the bookshelves like he was feeling his way—and like he didn’t want them to notice. That caught Jake’s unwilling…well, no, not sympathy. But he understood. No one likes to show his weakness to an enemy.

Nah. Call it adversary. Nothing personal.

English pushed open the office door—more bookshelves crowded with more books, a desk covered with books, chairs covered with books—and dropped down heavily into the chair behind the desk. He fumbled opened a drawer, feeling inside. The phone rang—loudly—then again. English found a small vial, thumbed the cap off, and tossed back a couple of pills. He shuddered, picked up a can of Tab—now there was something to shudder about—and washed the pills down.

All the while, the phone kept ringing.

Jake felt Chan’s stare. He shrugged.

“Sorry,” English muttered. “Go ahead.”

His lowered lashes cast black fans on his bloodless cheeks.

There was something about him. Something that troubled Jake. He couldn’t figure out why. He forced his stare away and studied the cluttered office. His lip curled. English probably had a “system” that only he understood.

Jake’s reluctant gaze was drawn back to the man sitting quietly beneath their gazes.

That crime scene had been pretty horrific. A lot of rage-fueled effort had gone into slaughtering Robert Hersey. Jake was not thinking something stupid like, This guy’s not the type, because everyone was the type, but he did wonder if English would have the sheer physical force necessary to subdue Hersey, who had been shorter, but muscular and very fit. The assailant’s hands would surely have a few nicks and scrapes, and English’s were unblemished.

(Also, English didn’t seem like the type. Though Jake would never have admitted that aloud.)

The phone, which had fallen silent, jangled back into life. English ignored it, resting his forehead on his hand.

“Aren’t you going to answer that?”

English shook his head. “How did…? Do you know who…?”

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

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

Jake took the next whack. “What can you tell us about Hersey? How well did you know him? How long had he worked for you?”

English fluttered his eyelashes. Was that deliberate or not? Maybe he needed glasses. He said dully, “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?” Chan asked.

English blinked up at Chan. “He was okay.”

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


“Were you sleeping with him?”

English’s lips parted. Yes or no, right? He looked like he didn’t know how to answer. Never a good sign in a police interview.

“Were you lovers?” Chan asked.

Lovers? Jesus, Chan.


“But you are homosexual?” Just so everyone was back on the same page.

A little color came back into English’s face. “I’m gay. What of it?”

“And Hersey was homosexual?”

“And two plus two equals a murder charge?” His eyes got very bright. Any minute now he’d be crying. Christ. Jake hated it when they cried. “We were friends, that’s all. I don’t know who Robert was sleeping with. He slept with a lot of people.”

Didn’t they all?

Jake frowned into English’s baby blues.


What the hell was it about him?

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Advent Calendar Day 19


How well do you think you know my work?

Today I thought we'd do something a little different.

If you follow me on social media, you know that off and on I do First Line Friday teasers. Basically, I match the first line and only the first line of one of my stories with what seems like appropriate or complementary art.

Today, I thought it would be fun to do LAST lines, without actually identifying the book, and letting you guys guess which story you think it belongs to. 

Now this only works if you don't peek at your library! 

Here are our five final sentences:

1 - The gravity of his face gave way to a slow, sweet smile. “No? And you call yourself a detective?”

2 - “And I agree that it’s a long and winding road and many miles to travel, miles to go before we sleep together. But George…maybe you could meet me halfway?”

3 - It reminded him of home.

4 - Before our lips met, I whispered, “Baby, I thought you’d never ask.”

5 - I leaned forward to kiss him. “It is.”

Here are our five book covers:

What do you think? DID YOU PEEK????

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Advent Calendar Day 18

 Just a lovely picture today, my dears! 

I hope you're having many magical evenings as we count down to Christmas (or whatever you choose to countdown to). ;-) 

Friday, December 17, 2021

Christmas Coda 62 – Ellery Page and Jack Carson





Todd followed him out the front door onto the shiny, wet sidewalk.

“You can’t leave. Where do you think you’re going?” The night was bitterly cold and Todd’s words seemed to literally hang in the air.


“In the middle of a party? You’re the host. You can’t walk out!”

“Sure, I can. I just have to put one foot in front of the other.”

“Don’t be an ass.”

Todd’s handsome face was flushed and his eyes glittered. That was partly alcohol, but mostly it was embarrassment. No one likes being caught with their pants down. And Todd’s had most definitely been down. Jeans, underpants, pooled around his ankles, cock halfway down Jerry’s throat, head thrown back as Todd struggled to contain the sounds threatening to tear out of him.

Ellery closed his eyes to that image, but he couldn’t unsee it. He wanted to throw up. He said shakily, “How could you?”

“Oh, come on. Don’t be such a drama queen!”

Ellery’s eyes jerked open. He could see brightly lit windows up and down the long street, parked cars spangled with frost. Christmas lights twinkled in the tree branches overhead, and beyond them, the stars, sparkling with cheerful indifference. Just another Ho Ho Hum Christmas Eve.

I was there you know; I had a cameo in the Star of Bethlehem production...

If he started laughing, it was going to turn to something else. And that would not only be humiliating, it would be pointless, because he’d already known it was over. Had been thinking for weeks he needed to speak up, say something. All they did was argue. Half the time, they didn’t even bother with the make-up sex. It didn’t need walking in on Todd and Jerry—

He said bitterly, “They’re your friends. Clearly.”

Yeah, that did hurt. Because, technically, Jerry was Ellery’s friend. One of his oldest friends. He’d even got Jerry a recurring role as Noah Street’s science geek buddy in the Happy Halloween! You’re Dead! films. How many people there tonight knew Todd and Jerry were…whatever they were.

Together. In a way he and Todd were not. And would never be again.

“They’re both of our friends. Friendses. Whatever. Look—” Todd thrust a hand through his hair, and said impatiently, “I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to find out like this.”

 “Then maybe don’t have sex in our bathroom during our Christmas Eve party!”

“I said I was sorry. We were going to tell you, but we didn’t want to ruin the holiday for you.”

At that, Ellery did start laughing. “Jesus Christ, Todd.” 

“It’s nobody’s fault. I just don’t l—it didn’t work out for us. It’s not the end of the world. Can’t we pretend to be civilized about it, at least?”

“I am being civilized,” Ellery said. “Instead of punching you in your face so you can’t film Monday, I’m going for a walk.”

 Todd gaped, put a hand to his sculpted cheekbone as though Ellery had indeed assaulted him. “You know, it’s your fault as much as mine!”

“I thought it wasn’t anyone’s fault?”

“Oh, you’re impossible! Do what you want, you big baby. Merry Fucking Christmas!”

Todd slammed back into the brownstone. Ellery’s brownstone, if someone wanted to get technical. But no, Ellery did not want to get technical. He did not want anything. Not anything here, at least. Not anymore.

For a moment he stared at the closed door in front of him. From inside the brownstone, he could hear laughter and music. The music suddenly blasted up a few decibels.


Last Christmas, I gave you my heart

But the very next day, you gave it away

This year, to save me from tears

I'll give it to someone special…

Yeah. No. Never again.

Never. Again.

Not every movie ended with a kiss and a fade to black. Not everybody got a happy ending. Some people just weren’t cut out for love. Just ask ill-starred Noah Street with his string of dead or possessed girlfriends.

Ellery turned and started walking. He was glad when the music faded into nothingness.






He hated Christmas.

And he hated that he hated Christmas.

You couldn’t blame Baby Jesus for all the bullshit. But it was such a long season. Made all the longer by the fact that stores, even little shops on the island, started putting out the fake pine garland and cute stuffed animals in elf costumes before the candles were out on Halloween.

Once upon a time, he’d loved Christmas.

Loved it all. From noisy. laughing family get-togethers to sitting in front of the fire late at night after a brutal shift, listening to Hannah dream aloud of a future that it turned out they were never going to have. Hell, once upon a time, he’d even been okay with Christmas-scented bath soap. But Once Upon a Time was for little kids. Little kids and their parents, whose job it was to keep those sugar plum dreams safe for as long as humanly possible.

Not to get maudlin. He was actually okay.

Granted, it had taken years to reach okay, but here he was. He could enjoy a quiet cup of coffee looking out his beach cottage window—lucky guy, right?—at the peaceful beauty of the sun coming up over the island. Enjoy that crazy cotton candy swirl of pink-edged clouds in a baby blue sky. In a little bit, he would walk down to the harbor, which would be all but deserted this morning. The cold, clean, salt air would sting his cheeks and fill his lungs. He’d feel alive again. He’d enjoy the song of the waves hitting the rocks, enjoy the songs the gulls sang—pub songs probably; gulls were rowdy birds.

Then he’d head over to the station. Which was where he really lived.

It was going to be a quiet day. Even for Pirate’s Cove which was a quiet little village.

Nothing ever happened in Pirate’s Cove. And Jack intended to keep it that way.

Damn. No dinner at the Salty Dog tonight. The pub would be closed for Christmas.

He sighed, but that was okay. He had bought roasted chicken at the little market and some frozen mashed potatoes. He wasn’t a picky eater.

Maybe he should get himself a dog for Christmas?

Or a bottle of Irish.

No, no. No Irish. He wasn’t about to make that mistake again. Sure, the alcohol numbed the pain, but you had to sober up eventually, and then you felt sad and sick.

Well, what about a dog? He liked dogs. He’d always had dogs when he was growing up.

Not a puppy. He didn’t have the energy or time for a puppy. But it would be nice to have something to come home to. Something that needed him. Something that was glad to see him.

Except he was rarely home.

That wouldn’t be fair to the dog.

Anyway, he didn’t have to be lonely. 

There were possibilities for companionship. Sue Lewis was smart and attractive. And interested. Robert Mane was smart and attractive and funny. Also interested. Jack still appreciated a good sense of humor, even if he himself wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs.

Speaking of barrel of laughs, he smiled faintly at the sight of his neighbor, decked out in a Santa costume, lugging a green trash bag of presents up the walk. The bag snagged on a stepping stone and tore. Joe swore, straightened his Santa hat, scooped up the presents and staggered on.

Good for you, buddy.

Jack sighed.

Okay. So maybe he wasn’t happy.

People put too much emphasis on happiness. The truth was, he would probably never be really happy again. And that was okay. He was okay. He was at peace.  You couldn’t lose what you didn’t have. To be honest, the idea of ever being that happy again, of feeling that foolish certainty that everything would be okay in the end, and if it wasn’t okay, it wasn’t the end… Jesus. The very idea made him ill. Filled him with dread. To be that happy and not realize what was coming?


Better to never know that kind of happiness. Anyone who said different, had never known real loss—or maybe they worked for a greeting card company.

Anyway. Another Christmas.

His mom and sister had both begged him to come back to California this year to spend the holidays with the family. He’d thought about it. Maybe next year he’d even go.

This year?

This year he was right where he needed to be. He raised his coffee cup to the faraway gleam of North Point lighthouse.

“Merry Christmas,” he said. “To you, to me and to all the ships at sea.”