December 8, 2014
“Andreas! Get in here right now. How many times do I have to tell you that the kryptes will kill you if they catch you outside after dark?” He could hear his mother’s voice as if she were still alive, calling to him from the safety of their house.
“I’m trying, Mother!” he muttered to her shade. He would never forget that one of the Spartan warriors had slain his father for nothing more than being a helot. Andreas crossed his fingers and flicked them away from his heart in an attempt to ward off a similar fate.
Andreas scanned his surroundings, his gaze veering between his home and the tree line beyond the goats’ enclosure. The mud-brick hut with its tidy little garden dominated the otherwise smooth grounds. Silhouetted against rosy clouds, safety beckoned. However, the encroaching darkness under the trees drove a shiver up his spine.
He was all alone. Or hoped he was.
A spur of the forest behind him jutted between his house and his nearest neighbor. Petros lived on the far side, his dwelling hidden from Andreas’ sight. Petros’ family would already be safely bundled under their roof, locked up tight as twilight approached. No helot was foolish enough to brave the dark and risk death.
Even though the hut didn’t look like much, Andreas wanted to be within the shelter of his home.
But Pan, the aptly named offspring of mischief, had other ideas. For some reason, when Andreas brought his flock home, the big buck had resisted entering the enclosure. The rest of the goats were milling about, following his obdurate example as the last of the daylight bled from the sky and Andreas grew more desperate.
“Curse you, Pan! If you don’t get in there, I’ll have you for dinner. How would you like that?” Knuckles white, he raised his staff and shook it.
Almost as if he understood, Pan bolted inside the lean-to with a startled bleat, his harem quick on his heels. Not a moment too soon. Nerves pushed to the snapping point, Andreas might have been willing to leave them to fend for themselves. He muttered imprecations as he shoved the brambles into the opening, blocking their exit. Though disgruntled, he was glad he hadn’t been forced to choose between their well-being and his life.
Leaves rustled in the nearby forest despite the lack of so much as a breath of wind, and Pan bleated uneasily. Andreas strained to hear anything else, anything at all. What was out there? A rival buck? Wolves? One of the kryptes?
Andreas shivered as cold sweat covered him. Please don’t let it be one of the deadly kryptes stalking me, intent on proving himself. The young warriors, the best Sparta could produce, killed helots for sport and to hone their skills.
The final rays of sunlight faded, leaving muted colors and hushed twilight in their wake, weighing down his heart with apprehension. Andreas hoped the kryptes who had been haunting the area didn’t consider sunset to be the definition of “after dark.” By decree, the warriors killed any helot they encountered at night, holding the subjugated population in check and using terror to quell any revolts before they started.
Glancing warily around, Andreas wondered if he could reach his home before being attacked. It isn’t dark yet. I can be inside before the last light fades. He couldn’t see anyone, but a good kryptes would be nigh impossible to spot. Drawing a deep breath, he sprinted toward the hut, his heart pounding.
Nearly there! A branch snapped, and he lost his footing as he attempted to look over his shoulder. He scrambled to get on his feet and back inside before….
In his mind’s eye, a red-cloaked figure strode calmly up behind him, a sword held in one fist. “Theos save me!”
Andreas made the last bit on his hands and knees, too shaken to regain his feet. The statue of Priapos with its obscenely large phallus jutting before him guarded his doorway. The god stood ready to protect this boundary against any trespassers, wielding his prodigious cock like a club. Having never been in this position before, Andreas had no idea if the deity would be able to protect him.
He clawed at the door for a moment before he managed to slip inside. Back pressed to the thick mud-brick wall, he forced himself to draw one deep shuddering breath after another.
The sound of another twig snapping came through his open window.
Oh Hades! Someone is out there.
Andreas fought to quiet his breathing as his bowels turned to water. Had the kryptes come to wreak judgment on him as they had on his father?
A faint scrabbling at his door had Andreas attempting to wedge himself into the much too narrow space under his cot. The wooden frame scraped across the floor, the sound muffled by the packed dirt. Hiding there had been so much easier when he’d done this as a child at his mother’s insistence. He barely fit now.
If the warrior was desperate enough to enter the one-room house, Andreas couldn’t risk being seen. The young man wouldn’t draw the line at murdering a helot.
He tried to convince himself the youth merely wanted something to eat. Everyone knew the boys in the Spartan agōgē were kept on the sharp edge of hunger to encourage theft; although, if anyone caught the young man at it, he would be flogged. They trained to be effective warriors, capable of foraging while on campaign, not common thieves.
Andreas might have reached the relative safety of his home, but he still wasn’t out of danger. The kryptes might yet kill Andreas to spare himself a beating for being observed. Not that Andreas would dare report him.
A breath of wind entered his home along with the intruder. Priapos’ threat hadn’t deterred the man. A shudder tore through Andreas as the door closed with a faint thump against the frame, trapping him inside with a killer.
November 11, 2014
Beau, Tollison and I want to thank you for following along today and for taking the time to look up and answer all our questions. The questions and answers are below:
“What’s another name for the French Quarter?”
The Vieux Carre’ is the other name for the French Quarter.
“What streets and landmarks define and border the French Quarter?”
“All other states in the country are divided by counties. What divides Louisiana?”
Louisiana is made up of “Parishes.”
“There are four other nicknames for the city of New Orleans in addition to The Big Easy. Give us any one of them.”
NOLA, The Crescent City, The Birthplace of Jazz, Mardi Gras City and The Big Easy are just some of the other names for New Orleans.
“There are nine historic plantations in Louisiana. Name any one of them.”
Destrehan Plantation, Evergreen Plantation, Houmas House Plantation, Laura: A Creole Plantation, Oak Alley Plantation, Ormond Plantation, Poche Plantation, San Francisco Plantation, and St. Joseph Plantation are the nine major plantations in Louisiana.
So without further delay, here are the winners:
1. Jen CW
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your DSP bookshelf and I’ll have the books downloaded ASAP. Thank you so much for playing along and I look forward to our next time together.
November 11, 2014
Scotty Cade here with Tollison Cruz and Beau Bissonet from my latest novel “The Royal Street Heist.” I hope you enjoyed meeting these two genius crackpots in the earlier posts. Crackpots yes, but as you will learn, they are brilliant at solving their first case together, not to mention a few other things but they can be a little hard to manage sometime. Beau’s ADD and Tollison’s OCD make them a great team, but man, keeping them focused is like herding cats.
Those of you who know me and follow my work probably remember that I grew up in New Orleans. The Big Easy was my home until I was twenty-eight when my career took me to Atlanta. I lived in Georgia until I was forty-five when Kell and I bought the Inn & Restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard. So I’ve spent over half of my life in New Orleans and she will always be my home.
Because of the many years here, I am intimately familiar with the city and like most who live here are forever touched by the charm of the French Quarter, the beauty of the Garden District, or the quaintness of the Irish Channel, just to name a few. She never fails to amaze me and I revel in being here each and every time I visit. As a matter of fact, I’m here as we speak for the release of “Heist” enjoying the mild fall weather and spending a little time with my two new stars working on their next adventure. I thought I’d do a little Q&A just to help you get to know my guys.
Scotty: So Beau. Tell everyone how you go about solving cases in you line of work.
Beau: For starters I look at the facts. I put them all up on what I call my “Fact Board” and see if I can find any links or connections to any of the potential suspects or “persons of interest” as we call them in the biz. Secondly, my motto is if it barks like a dog and fights like a dog, then its probably a dog. And in most cases I’m spot on.
Tollison: Pretty much the same. But I add the element of logic. Without giving away too much of the book, believe me when I tell you I’ve seen some highly intelligent and brilliant criminals whose styles don’t always make sense, but sometimes they get away with it. But in Beau’s defense, his line of work is a little different then mine.
Tollison: Sure man. Anyway, I don’t usually deal with murders, only recovering valuable property that was stolen or at least pretending to be stolen. It’s my job to decide which and then follow every lead until I hunt down the stolen property, wherever it may be.
Scotty: What makes you guys work so well together?
Tollison: (Raises hand) Me. Me. Me. Oh please let me answer this one.
Beau: Fine! But I get the next one.
Tollison: Okay. Okay. Baby. So I think Beau’s and my magic lies in our passion for our jobs. We are both extremely passionate about our work. And as you said, my OCD and Beau’s ADD make us an especially good team. He goes off on tangents and is hard to stay focused but that trait lets his mind go in places my mine would never attempt. For me this is very valuable, but very painful at the same time. When he embarks on something in outerspace its my job to bring him back and start working every detail of his digression. We may kill each other one day, but in the end the job gets done and with each case we solve independently or together, we’re better at what we do.
Beau: (Hangs head with wounded eyes) Oh come on Tol? Am I that bad?
Tollison: (Reaches over and squeezes Beau’s knee and winks) Hell yeah! But I wouldn’t change a thing.
Beau: (Heartwarming smile with those adorable pouty lips) Thanks Man. Me either.
Scotty: Okay Beau. Here’s one for you. (beau sits up straight and listens intently) What did you think of Tollison when he barged in on your investigation and tried to take over?
Beau: (Throws head back in laughter) Take over? I think not! No way was that going to happen. I work my cases. But man I’ve got to tell you, he was and still is some kind of easy on the eyes. He had me forgetting all about the case for a split second. I mean one minute I was eyeing that tight ass and imagining what I’d do to it if I got the chance and the next I was saying, “Who the fuck does this guy think he is? He’s trying to take over my case.” Then when the Chief made us work together, that was the kicker. But in the end (winks at Tollison) it all worked out. We make a great team and now I don’t have to imagine what to do with that tight little Latin American ass. (Tollison lets Beau have it in the arm) – Fuck Tollison, that hurt.
Tollison: Serves you right. Don’t forget I’ve worked that ass of yours over a few times.
Beau: You don’t have to remind me of that. (Winks)
Scotty: Okay you two. Let’s keep this clean and save a little for the book.
Beau & Tollison in unison: Sorry.
Scotty: Okay boys? What do you think we should do to give these nice people some free books?
Beau: How about we ask them questions about the excerpt?
Scotty: Nice, but its been done a million times before. Let’s try something new.
Tollison: How about so some simple questions about New Orleans so people can easily Google the answers.
Beau: Yeah, that sounds good. That’s a little different.
Scotty: Okay go for it. Let’s come up with five questions.
Beau: How about “What’s another name for the French Quarter?”
Scotty: That’s a great one.
Tollison: Let’s do “What streets and landmarks define and border the French Quarter?”
Scotty: Another great one.
Beau: (Raises hand) Oh I have one. “All the other states in the country are divided by counties. What divides Louisiana?”
Scotty: Perfect. Good job guys. Now lets do a couple about the excerpt of the book. How about this one? “What are the names of the civil war paintings stolen from the Royal Renaissance Gallery?”
Scotty: Now each of you give me one more and we’ll be done.
Tollison: Okay. Here’s mine and I just learned this from Beau. (Winks at Beau) “There are four other nicknames for the city of New Orleans in addition to The Big Easy. Give us any one of them.”
Scotty: Great. Beau?
Beau: So you were listening Tol!
Tollison: I hang on your every word. You know that Beau. (Rolls eyes)
Beau: Don’t rush me. I’m thinking… I’m thinking… Oh okay. Here’s one. “There are nine historic plantations in Louisiana. Name any one of them.”
Scotty: Good one. Okay boys. Think we’re good on questions. Great job by the way.
Beau & Tollison: Thanks.
So there you have it folks. I’ve numbered the questions below so you can just place your answer by the corresponding number and all the correct answers will go into a drawing for three copies of “The Royal Street Heist.”
- “What’s another name for the French Quarter?”
- “What streets and landmarks define and border the French Quarter?”
- “All other states in the country are divided by counties. What divides Louisiana?”
- “There are four other nicknames for the city of New Orleans in addition to The Big Easy. Give us any one of them.”
- “There are nine historic plantations in Louisiana. Name any one of them.”
I’ll be back with the winners at 6:00pm EST. But in the meantime here’s my bio for you newbies and a buy link to the book.
Scotty Cade left Corporate America and twenty-five years of Marketing and Public Relations behind to buy an Inn & Restaurant on the island of Martha’s Vineyard with his partner of seventeen years. He started writing stories as soon as he could read, but just five years ago for publication. When not at the Inn, you can find him on the bow of his boat writing gay romance novels with his Shetland sheepdog Mavis at his side. Being from the south and a lover of commitment and fidelity, most of his characters find their way to long healthy relationships, however long it takes them to get there. He believes that in the end, the boy should always get the boy.
November 11, 2014
Beau and Tollison here again, stars of the latest Scotty Cade novel called “The Royal Street Heist.”
Its killing Beau, but I’m the man in charge for this post. I’m Tollison Eduardo Braga Cruz, by the way. And yes, I know Beau said it’s a mouthful, but hey, he’s one to talk right? Montgomery Beaumont Bissonet. Please…That name doesn’t just roll off the lips with great ease.
“Ouch Beau! Stop it Beau. I swear I need hazard pay working with this guy.”
Since Mr. Pouty lips went on and on about himself in the first post, I won’t bore you with as much detail about myself but I will give you a little history. “Damn it Beau. Punch me in the arm one more time and I’m gonna flatten you right here.” (Eyes glaring.)
So where were we? Oh yeah me. Okay so I’m the old guy in this partnership at thirty-seven years old. I stand about 6’1” and weigh in at one hundred and ninety pounds. Unlike Beau, I work out on a regular basis trying to stay ahead of gravity, since well you know, I’m knocking on forty’s door. As you can probably tell by my name, I’m of Latin American decent, Portuguese to be exact and came to the United States when I was just a baby. I have black hair and brown eyes and what I like to call mocha colored skin. It’s like having a permanent suntan. Man do I look good in yellow. But I digress.
Anyway, I’m and insurance investigator for Lloyds of London and reside in Atlanta Georgia. But…I spend more time on the road trying to recover stolen property then I do at home. I too am an openly gay man with one or two relationships under my belt, which much like Beau’s didn’t end well. Some might say I have a bit of a sketchy past, but hey, we all have our past’s right? But also like Beau, I’ll let you read about my past in the book and you can make up your own mind.
“Shut up Beau.” He’s laughing at me right now and really starting to piss me off.
Anyway, so we promised you an excerpt and here it is. In the next posts Scotty will make an appearance to tell you a little about how he embarked on this book and what’s coming up next. Enjoy!
“What do we have?” Lead Detective Montgomery Beaumont Bissonet asked, walking up to the bathroom door with his partner, Detective August Hebert, right behind him. Bissonet looked at his partner and frowned when he saw the investigating detective already at work on the crime scene.
Detective Bruce Jenkins offered him a weak smile. “Meet Anthony Le Moyne, Esquire,” Jenkins said. “A two-bit attorney. No. More like an ambulance chaser than an attorney.”
“Looks like he lost one too many cases,” Detective Hebert said.
“Any idea why this happened?” Bissonet asked.
“My guess is he walked in on another crime being committed here tonight.”
Bissonet gave Jenkins a questioning glance.
“Follow me,” Jenkins said as he led the two detectives down the stairs and into the main parlor. He walked up and stood in front of the empty wall where the two paintings had previously hung.
“A couple of hours ago, two original paintings from the Civil War era hung in this very spot. They were called General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville and The Little Solider.”
“Anyone checked Ulysses S. Grant’s house?” Hebert teased.
“How much were they worth?” Bissonet asked.
“Combined, a little under two million,” Jenkins replied.
Hebert raised an eyebrow.
“Yep,” Jenkins said. “The kid was worth about eight fifty and Lee about a million,” Jenkins explained. “The gallery owner acquired them about six months ago from the estate of Le Moyne’s late mother. He apparently got them for a steal, and Le Moyne wasn’t happy about that. He showed up intoxicated at the gallery a few days ago during the opening, caused a scene, and even threatened the gallery owner.”
Bissonet looked around. “It appears this place has motion detectors. Did the alarm sound?”
“Yes,” Jenkins said. “But only motion detectors. No exterior sensors were disturbed.”
“How did the thief get in?” Hebert asked.
“There was a gala fundraiser event here earlier this evening. The thief could have been a guest who snuck upstairs and hid until the event was over.”
“And how did he get out with the paintings?” Bissonet asked.
“We think through a rooftop deck and the fire escape of the adjoining building.”
“And the alarm didn’t sound?” Bissonet asked.
“Apparently the first floor is the only area secured by the alarm system,” Jenkins explained.
“That’s odd,” Hebert said.
“Not according to the owners,” Jenkins explained. “The owner said there is only one way to the second and third floors, and that’s the route up the main stairs you used earlier.”
Detective Bissonet looked back over his shoulder in the direction of the stairwell. “Apparently they were wrong.”
“Apparently,” Hebert agreed.
“I’d like to talk to the owner,” Bissonet said.
“He’s upstairs in his office with his wife, daughter, and son-in-law. They all seem to be in shock, so you might want to take it easy on them.”
Bissonet looked Jenkins directly in the eye. “Don’t tell me how to do my job, Bruce.”
“Come on, Beau,” Jenkins said. “Have things deteriorated so badly between us we can’t even work together?”
“Oh, I don’t know, Bruce,” Bissonet said wryly. “Why don’t you ask the teenager you cheated on me with?”
Jenkins cringed and Bissonet smiled.
“He wasn’t a teenager and you know it, Beau,” Bruce said. “And maybe if you would have spent a little more time at home, I wouldn’t have turned to someone else.”
“Fuck it, Bruce. We’ve been over this a million times,” Bissonet said. “I’m tired of beating a dead horse. Now tell me where the owner is again?”
“Upstairs in his office with his family,” Bruce said in a defeated tone.
Bissonet turned and headed for the stairs with Hebert by his side. “Sorry you had to witness that, Auggie,” Beau said. “I still can’t stand to look at the guy.”
“I get it, man,” Hebert said. “If my wife cheated on me, I’d be in prison for murder.”
“Yeah, but I’ve gotta get over it. I still have to work with him.”
Auggie raised a hand to Beau’s shoulder. “Just give it a little more time, man.”
Bissonet approached the door to Crymes’s office. In shock seems to be an understatement, he thought, glancing at Hebert. The two women were crying openly, and the older woman was also trembling and white as a sheet. The men were doing their best to console the women, but they didn’t appear to be succeeding.
Bissonet knocked lightly. “Excuse me,” he said. “I’m sorry to intrude, but I have some questions.”
“Can this wait?” one of the men said.
Bissonet shook his head. “I’m sorry, it really can’t. Which one of you is Mr. Villerie?”
“I’m Crymes Villerie,” the older gentleman said.
“I’m Lead Detective Bissonet, and this is my partner, Detective Hebert.”
Mr. Villerie nodded. “This is my wife, Charmaine Villerie, my daughter, Harper Villerie Hayes, and her husband, Jamison Hayes.” He paused and then asked, “Detectives? What in the hell happened in there?”
“For starters,” Bissonet said, “we think the victim interrupted a robbery in progress.”
Crymes put his hands on his hips. “So let me get this straight. You think Le Moyne was attempting to steal my paintings, but someone beat him to it and then killed him?”
“That’s what the evidence is showing so far,” Hebert said.
“But who?” Harper asked. “After the way Le Moyne acted when he was here, I would have bet my life if anyone attempted to steal the paintings, it would have been him.”
Bissonet made a few notes and then looked up. “You would have probably been right if he’d been a couple of hours earlier.”
“I understand he came into your gallery and threatened you?” Hebert asked.
“That’s right,” Harper said. “He threatened my father on opening night.”
Bissonet looked at his partner. “Mr. Villerie. Can you tell me the circumstances surrounding your interactions with Mr. Le Moyne?”
The detectives listened as Crymes explained how he’d received the anonymous call, how he’d come to purchase the paintings, and Mr. Le Moyne’s actions and threats when he came to the gallery. “I purchased those paintings fair and square from an estate manager,” he said. “I made the man an offer and he accepted. At the time I had not confirmed the origin of the paintings, nor had I determined if they were even originals or just very good reproductions.”
“Of course, we’ll need the name of that estate manager,” Bissonet said.
“And I assume by the price they were indeed both originals?” Hebert asked.
“Do any of you have an idea who might have stolen the paintings? Enemies? Competitors? Etcetera?”
They all seemed to be contemplating the question. “I’m afraid not,” Crymes said. “But they were worth a lot of money. It could have been anyone.”
Bissonet looked at Harper. “No. Not that I can think of,” she replied.
Charmaine and Jamie both shook their heads.
“What about a gun? Do you have a gun on-site?”
Crymes opened his desk drawer and froze. “It’s gone,” he said. “I always keep my .45 right here in case of an emergency. This is the French Quarter, after all.”
Beau nodded and looked at Hebert. “Get CSI in here to check for prints.”
“One last question,” Bissonet said. “Detective Jenkins tells me there was no security system on the second and third floors. Is that correct?”
“Yes,” Harper said. “All of the artwork is kept in our vault or downstairs on display. Our offices are up here, as well as a guest suite we use for customers who come into town to preview artwork.”
“It appears the thief exited through a rooftop deck with the paintings in hand,” Hebert informed them. “And… escaped by hopping onto the adjoining building and down the fire escape. I don’t think your building is as secure as you thought.”
“Evidently,” Crymes said.
“Before you leave,” Bissonet said. “I’ll need all of you to give statements to Detective Jenkins about the night Mr. Le Moyne came to the gallery.”
“And… we’ll need a list of everyone who attended the gala this evening,” Hebert added.
“I’ll send Detective Jenkins right up. And thank you for your time. I’ll be in touch.”
Bissonet and Hebert turned to leave, but Bissonet stopped. “Oh, and I almost forgot. Are the paintings insured?”
“Yes,” Harper said. “By Lloyd’s of London.”
“And for how much?”
“Two point two million,” Harper replied.
“I see,” Bissonet said. “Has the insurer been notified?”
“As a matter of fact, they have,” Harper said. “As soon as I arrived, I reported the stolen paintings.”
“Good,” Bissonet said. “Is it common to insure artwork for more than the retail value?”
“Detective,” Harper explained, “with paintings as rare as these are, the value can increase on a daily basis, and also because of the value, they may not sell overnight. We just want to make sure we’re protected. And besides….”
Beau listened as Mrs. Hayes explained the very small rate difference between the actual value and the policy amount and her rationale for overinsuring.
“Thank you very much for your time. Detective Jenkins will be up shortly.”
Beau and Auggie walked down the stairs and into the parlor. Auggie found Jenkins and told him the owners were ready to give their statements, and Bissonet paced back and forth in the gallery in front of the blank wall.
“What gives, Beau?” Auggie asked.
“I don’t know, but I’ve got a stinking suspicion something is not adding up here.”
“Let’s go over it,” Auggie said. “The owner gets a mysterious call and buys two paintings from an estate for a couple of hundred grand, and the paintings turn out to be originals worth a couple million dollars. The owner has them restored or conserved, whatever they call it, hangs them in his gallery, and attempts to sell them at the appraised value.”
Bissonet took over. “And somehow the heir to the estate finds out they were originals, is majorly pissed off, and shows up drunk, threatens the owners, and promises revenge.”
“Meanwhile,” Hebert added, “the owners overinsure the paintings by a couple hundred grand, and three days later they are stolen and someone is dead.”
“Stolen just after a gala where someone sneaks upstairs,” Bissonet said, “hides until the gallery is closed, and then steals both paintings. Gets surprised by the heir to the estate, also intending to steal the paintings, but instead, the original thief kills the heir and escapes through a rooftop deck and down a fire escape with the paintings.”
“But…,” Hebert said. “There wasn’t enough time after the alarm sounded for the thief to kill Le Moyne, drag him into the bathroom, and still get the paintings out before we show up.”
“Which means,” Bissonet explained, “the thief must have killed Le Moyne before he came downstairs and set off the motion detectors.”
“Exactly,” Hebert said.
“None of that is likely! This was an invitation-only gala, and all guests were business associates or personal friends of the board of directors for the charity,” a strange voice said.
Bissonet turned to see an extremely handsome, tall, dark-haired man snapping a rubber glove onto his right hand. Damn, he’s hot was Beau’s first thought. Wait! Who in the fuck does this guy think he is?
“Excuse me?” Beau said.
“Odds are the thief came in through the french doors leading to the rooftop deck.”
“I’m sorry?” Bissonet asked. “Who in the hell are you?”
“I’m Tollison Cruz. I’m the insurance investigator for Lloyd’s of London, the gallery’s insurance company.”
Beau frowned. “So just for shits and giggles, if he got in through the rooftop, how did he get out?”
“Either through the courtyard or the same way he came in,” Cruz said.
“But none of the exterior sensors were disturbed,” Hebert objected.
“As I understand it,” Cruz explained, examining the display wall and running his fingers along the wall’s edge, “the security alarm was set off by the motion detectors, and that’s what the security system reported. The courtyard door could have been disabled after the alarm was already sounding, at which point the security company would have already done their job by calling the account contact and/or the police.”
“That’s all well and good, but what about proof?” Bissonet asked.
Cruz stopped and pulled off his rubber glove. “I don’t need proof to know I’m right. It’s my job. And if you like, I can help you with yours.”
“How so?” Bissonet asked.
“I get a twenty percent finder’s fee for recovering stolen objects in addition to my already exorbitant salary. I want that money, and you want your murderer. We have common goals. I could consult on your case and share my insight and years of experience.”
“Sounds like a great idea,” Hebert said. “We can always use—”
“No,” Bissonet said. “That won’t be necessary.”
“Can’t blame a guy for trying,” Cruz said, looking Bissonet up and down and smiling. “Good to meet you, detectives,” Cruz said over his shoulder, walking up the stairs.
Bissonet wiped the drool at the corner of his mouth as he watched Cruz take the stairs two at a time, the muscles in his ass flexing with every step and his round cheeks filling every millimeter of his black wool slacks. He shook his head. It’s been way too long. I need to get laid.
“What gives?” Auggie asked. “We could have used him.”
Beau waved his hand through the air. “He’d just get in the way.”
“Really?” Auggie asked. “And what if he’s onto something?”
Beau rolled his eyes when he saw Bruce coming down the stairs.
“Jenkins!” he yelled.
“Check the courtyard door and see if the security sensor has been tampered with, and also see if there’s an escape route from the courtyard to the alley and beyond,” Bissonet instructed. “I know this guy wasn’t brazen enough to carry two stolen paintings down Chartres Street at three thirty in the morning.”
Auggie smiled at him. “Now, was that so hard?”
Bissonet smirked and looked at Auggie. “Are you coming with me, or are you gonna stay here and investigate with Mr. Cruz?”
Back at the precinct, Auggie was on the phone getting more details from Jenkins while Beau talked through the case again out loud.
“So,” Beau said, “Le Moyne breaks into the gallery and attempts to steal the paintings he feels were stolen from him. But… he interrupts someone who beat him to it, either on the way down to steal the paintings or on the way up with the paintings in his hand. More than likely, from the location of Le Moyne’s body, on the way down. Then he brings the paintings back up two flights of stairs and then carries them down the fire escape of the adjoining building.”
“Except, as it turns out, that’s not how it happened,” Hebert said, hanging up the phone. “It appears the courtyard door sensor was tampered with, just like Cruz said.” Auggie smiled.
“A very lucky guess,” Beau mumbled, looking shocked.
“It appears the two screws securing the top sensor to the doorjamb were unscrewed, and the sensor was simply placed on top of the sensor on the door. That way when the door opened and closed, the connection wasn’t broken, and the security company didn’t see any exterior entrances breached. And… that’s how the thief exited the building.”
“And what about his escape?” Beau asked.
“There is a straight shot through the courtyard, down the alley, and onto Chartres Street, where Jenkins found tire marks, quite possibly when the getaway car burned rubber when they left.”
“Damn,” Beau hissed. “I want all the neighbors interviewed to see if they saw or heard anything, and see if you get your hands on any surveillance camera footage.”
“Jenkins is already on it,” Auggie said.
“Bissonet?” Captain Trenchard yelled. “In my office. Now.”
“Yes, sir,” Beau said, jumping to his feet and rolling his eyes at Auggie.
Beau crossed the precinct, stepped into the captain’s office, and almost spit when he saw Tollison Cruz sipping on a cup of coffee.
“Detective. I believe you’ve already met Tollison Cruz,” the captain said.
“Hiya,” Cruz said with a nod and a coy smile, his leg casually crossed at the knee.
“What the f—” Beau mumbled. “What are you doing here?”
Captain Trenchard interjected. “I received a call from the mayor earlier, and apparently this has turned into a very high-profile case. Mr. Villerie is a personal friend of the mayor’s, and he wants this crime solved as soon as possible. And… by using every available asset,” the captain explained. “To that end, Mr. Cruz has presented me with a very compelling proposal.”
“Yeah,” Beau said. “I’ve already heard one proposal, so I can’t wait to hear this one.”
“Well, I like what I heard,” the captain said.
“Captain Trenchard, Please tell me you’re not putting him on this—”
The captain cut Beau off. “He has expertise that can help us solve this case. I’m putting him on as a consultant.”
“Sir,” Beau said. “With all due respect, I prefer working with my team.”
“I believe Mr. Cruz will be an asset to this case.”
The captain held up a finger. “This is no longer up for discussion.”
Beau cursed under his breath, but smiled and nodded.
“I look forward to working with you,” Cruz said wryly, offering his hand.
Beau hesitated, then accepted. The big, tanned hand was warm, and Cruz’s grip was extremely strong. Beau cursed himself for where his thoughts went from there.
He turned and walked out of the captain’s office with Cruz on his heels.
“I’ll give you this,” Beau said when they were out of earshot of the captain. “You’ve got some gigantic balls.”
“Thank you,” Cruz said with a raised eyebrow. “I didn’t think you’d noticed. But let’s save the bedroom talk for later. Over a drink, maybe?”
Beau ignored the comment and poured himself a cup of coffee, not offering Cruz one.
“My theories about the thief?” Cruz asked. “Was I right?”
Beau took a sip of his coffee and smirked without answering.
“I do my job very well, Detective Bissonet,” Cruz said. “This is the quickest way for both of us to get what we want. Think of it as a merger of sorts.”
“More like a hostile takeover,” Beau grumbled. “I’ll have Detective Hebert bring you up to speed.”
“And that’s about where we are,” Detective Hebert told Cruz while Beau looked on with a scowl covering his face.
“So what’s our next move?” Cruz asked.
Bissonet stepped up. “The Major Case squad sent in a list of collectors who might be interested in Civil War history, and so we are looking into that now to see if anyone has tried to contact them regarding the paintings.”
“These paintings are too hot to handle now that’s there’s a dead body on them,” Cruz said. “The thief knows that and won’t do business with anyone on your list for fear of being discovered.”
“Okaaay?” Beau asked. “Do you have a better idea?”
“From my standpoint,” Cruz said. “I’m only interested in recovering the missing paintings, so my plan is to start with the gallery owner and his family.”
“Insurance fraud?” Hebert asked.
Cruz nodded. “Accounts for about fifty percent of my investigations.”
“What about the estate manager?” Hebert asked. “Something doesn’t seem right to me there. And Villerie’s wife? She seemed overly upset over the death of someone she’d only seen once and who, while in an intoxicated state, embarrassed her husband.”
“I didn’t see the wife, but I agree with your summation of the estate manager,” Cruz said. “If this guy even suspected he had originals, he wouldn’t have let them go for such a small amount of money. And normally these estate companies do their homework.”
Beau sipped his coffee and listened. Now Auggie was conversing with Cruz like he was one of the team, and Beau was getting more and more pissed by the minute.
Before he could put a stop to it, Jenkins walked up with a folder. “Yo! Guys. I think I found something.”
Beau watched as Bruce stopped and did a double take when he saw the tall, dark, and handsome stranger sitting on the corner of Beau’s desk.
“Bruce, meet Tollison Cruz,” Auggie said. “He’s working with us on this case.”
Bruce nodded and smiled.
Beau gave Auggie a nasty look and then looked up at Jenkins. “Let’s hear it.”
“It appears our Mr. Crymes Villerie is in debt up to his eyeballs. The bank has already started foreclosure proceedings on his home, gallery, and vacation property in Charleston, South Carolina, and he’s sinking fast.”
“Bingo,” Cruz said. “If I’m lucky, I might be able to wrap up my end of this case by dinnertime.”
“You mean if I’m lucky,” Beau said under his breath.
Cruz looked down at Beau and smiled. “Am I that hard on the eyes?”
Cocky fucker! Beau stood, ignoring the question. “Let’s go and pay Mr. Villerie a visit.”
“Wait,” Bruce said. “That’s not all.”
Bruce shuffled folders and opened a second one. “It also appears that Jamison Hayes, Mr. Villerie’s son-in-law, has quite a gambling problem. Horses, to be exact, and he’s in deep to a couple of very ruthless bookies.”
“Well, well,” Beau said. “In a matter of a few minutes, we now have a person of interest and two suspects.”
“And I’m still working on their phone records,” Jenkins added. “Should have those by late this afternoon.”
Crymes was seated at his desk in the gallery, still in a daze. He and Charmaine hadn’t slept a wink when they’d finally made it back home, and she’d been an absolute wreck, hysterical almost. He’d done his best to try and comfort her, but Harper finally managed to slip a Xanax in her tea, and that had settled her down a good bit before he and Harper left the house.
His phone buzzed, startling him out of his thoughts. “Yes, Harper,” he said into the receiver.
“Detectives Bissonet and Hebert are here to see you.”
“I’ll be right down,” Crymes said.
Crymes walked down the stairs and saw Harper talking to a stranger while Bissonet and Hebert were standing off to the side.
“Detective Bissonet,” Crymes said as he stepped off the landing. “Please tell me you’ve found my paintings.”
“I wish I could,” Bissonet said. “But we do have a few questions. May we speak in private?”
Before Crymes could respond, Harper walked up. “Crymes, this is Tollison Cruz. He’s the insurance investigator Lloyd’s of London sent over.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Cruz,” Crymes said, shaking the man’s hand.
“I’ll be working with Detectives Bissonet and Hebert to try and recover your paintings,” Cruz explained. “Is there some place private we can talk?”
Bissonet rolled his eyes. “I’ve already asked that question, Mr. Cruz.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Cruz replied.
“Yes,” Crymes said. “Let’s go up to my office.”
Crymes led the way with Hebert, Cruz, and Bissonet pulling up the rear.
The three men took seats on the couch in Crymes’s office while he sat on the corner of his desk.
“I’ll get right to the point, Mr. Villerie,” Bissonet said. “It has come to our attention that you are in quite a bit of debt and the bank is foreclosing on this very property, as well as your home and vacation home. Is that correct?”
Crymes felt his knees weaken. He gripped the ends of his desk for support, sighed, and dropped his head. “I’m afraid so.”
“Mr. Villerie,” Cruz said. “I’m sure you can imagine how this looks to me and my insurance company. It reeks of insurance fraud.”
Crymes thought about what Cruz was saying. It had never occurred to him before now he might be a suspect. He stood. “You aren’t actually insinuating I may have been the one to steal my own paintings?”
“It’s a definite possibility,” Cruz said. “You would be the one who stands to profit the most from the insurance settlement, as well as the sale of the paintings.”
Crymes straightened his shoulders and tried to stand as tall as possible. “Well, gentlemen, I can assure you your suspicions couldn’t be further from the truth,” he said adamantly. “I was here at the gallery until the fundraiser was over. I then took my wife home and went to bed. You can check my phone records and anything else you want. I assure you I did not arrange for those paintings to be stolen.”
“What about your daughter?” Detective Hebert asked.
Crymes felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand at attention. “I can also assure you Harper had nothing to do with this crime either.”
“How can you be so sure?” Bissonet asked. “The way I see it, if you lose the gallery, she loses her job and her legacy.”
“First of all,” Crymes pointed out, “she has no idea we are about to lose the gallery, and secondly, I know my daughter, and she would never get involved in anything illegal. Foreclosure or no foreclosure.”
“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Cruz said.
“Mr. Villerie?” Bissonet asked. “What about your son-in-law?”
“Jamison?” Crymes asked. “Out of the question. He’s a fine young man from an upstanding New Orleans family, and he’s about to make partner in his father’s law firm. He wouldn’t chance being disbarred and embarrassing his family for something so ridiculous.”
“He stands to lose as much as your daughter does,” Cruz pointed out.
“Yes, gentlemen,” Crymes argued. “That might all make sense if I thought either of them knew about the foreclosures. But they had no way of knowing. I… I was just notified myself a few days ago. I picked up the foreclosure papers from the bank personally to avoid being served here at the gallery so I could tell them when I found the right time.”
“Are you aware your son-in-law likes the ponies?” Hebert asked.
“I’m aware he goes to the track occasionally,” Crymes said. “Hell! I’ve even gone with him a few times.”
“And what about his bookies?” Hebert asked. “Our sources tell us he’s in pretty deep.”
Bookies? “What bookies?” Crymes asked, unable to hide the shock in his voice.
“Mr. Hayes is very heavily indebted to two well-known and fairly ruthless bookies.”
Crymes felt like all the oxygen had been sucked out of the room, and he could no longer breathe. His throat was closing up, and his vision was fading in and out. He felt his way around the edge of his desk and collapsed in his chair, unable to support his own weight. He rubbed at his eyes and covered his face with his hands. “I had no idea,” he forced out when he could finally speak. “I had no idea.”
“Just so you’ll know,” Bissonet said. “We’ll be looking closely at your daughter and son-in-law, as well as your wife, as we proceed with our investigation.”
“Charmaine?” Crymes asked, feeling weaker by the minute. “But she knows nothing about the foreclosures either.”
“That may very well be,” Hebert said. “But we’re not as convinced about all this as you are.”
“Thank you for your time, Mr. Villerie,” Bissonet said. “We’ll be in touch.”
Crymes nodded and leaned forward in an attempt to stand.
Hebert held his hand up. “Please don’t get up. We’ll show ourselves out.”
Mentally and physically exhausted, Crymes leaned back and closed his eyes. Harper, Jamie, and now Charmaine. What is going on around here?
Bissonet gestured for Hebert and Cruz to go ahead of him, and he watched Cruz’s broad, muscular shoulders and tight little ass as the man walked down the stairs in front of him. The guy was a pain, all right, but he was a good-looking pain just the same! If Beau had to guess a nationality, he would go with Latin American. Cruz’s mocha-colored skin, rich brown eyes, and jet black hair were dead giveaways. Combine that with the slightest bit of an accent, and he figured Cruz was from Brazil or maybe Portugal.
When they got to the bottom of the stairs, Cruz looked over his shoulder, smiled, and winked at Beau, which pissed him off immensely. “Fucker!” he said under his breath as he passed him by.
“Now, now, Beau,” Cruz said wryly. “No need for obscenities.”
Beau smirked and stepped out onto Royal Street, letting the door shut behind him. The heat and humidity hit him like a ton of bricks, and he crossed the street to get out of the direct sunlight. Cruz and Hebert caught up to him just as his cell phone rang. Beau looked at his phone and frowned when a picture of Jenkins’s smiling face filled his screen.
Beau flashed back to the day he’d taken that picture—on the balcony at the Bourbon Pub during Mardi Gras a little over four years ago. It had been his and Bruce’s second anniversary, and his heart hurt a little, seeing the twinkle in Bruce’s eyes and remembering how happy they were then.
They’d broken up a year and a half ago, and he was still so angry at Bruce for cheating on him and fucking it all up that he had a hard time dealing with him. He’d had to maintain a certain amount of professionalism because they still had to work together, but he’d be damned if he was going to forgive and forget and make the whole thing easy on Bruce.
Both of them had been uniformed officers when they’d met, and after their shifts they’d had lots of time to spend together, in and out of bed. But everything had changed when Beau was offered a detective position. Their time together started to lessen, and after a year, when Beau had been promoted to lead detective, everything started to fall apart.
His caseload had been extremely heavy, and Beau had been working eighteen-hour days. In Beau’s mind, though, he’d been trying to prove himself and secure his job to ultimately make a better life for the both of them, but Bruce hadn’t exactly seen it that way.
In an attempt to save his relationship, Beau had called in a favor, unbeknownst to Bruce, and Bruce had been offered a detective position. Not that Bruce needed his help. He was a damned good detective and would have been promoted eventually, but their relationship wouldn’t have made it until then. Things started to get better, and Beau thought they were going to make it until he found out about the affair.
Once Bruce fessed up, there was no way Beau could go back. He couldn’t be with a man he couldn’t trust, and everything had ended right then and there. Beau knew he shared some of the blame by neglecting Bruce, but it was his job, and if the shoe had been on the other foot, he would have never cheated. Auggie and his wife, Jenny, had been his saving graces; they had been his shoulders to lean on and had literally coaxed him back to the land of the living.
So here they were. A year and a half later, they were still working together because of a promotion Beau had arranged, and both of them were miserable doing it.
The phone rang again, startling Beau out of his thoughts, and he accepted the call. “Bissonet.”
“Beau, it’s Bruce.”
“I’m listening,” Beau said with no emotion in his voice.
Beau heard Bruce sigh and momentarily felt sorry for the guy, but it didn’t take him long to recover. “Talk?” he said.
“I got the phone records back for Harper Hayes, Jamison Hayes, Crymes Villerie, and Charmaine Villerie,” Bruce explained.
“Besides the bookies,” Bruce said, “Jamison’s phone records are clean, and so are Mr. Villerie’s and Harper Hayes’s.”
“And Charmaine Villerie?” Beau asked.
Bruce cleared his throat. “That’s a very different story.”
“I’m still listening.”
“Her phone records show that the day after the paintings were first displayed at the opening, and in the days leading up to the robbery, Mrs. Villerie placed a half-dozen or so calls to a number we traced back through our database to a convicted felon named Emanuel Della Penna, who served time for that heist at the New Orleans Museum of Art ten years ago. He got five years, did his time, and up until now, he hasn’t resurfaced.”
Beau smiled and wiped his forehead with his coat sleeve. “I think it’s time we pay Mrs. Villerie a visit. And bring Della Penna in for questioning. We’ll be there as soon as we can. Is that it?” Bissonet asked.
“For now,” Bruce said, disconnecting the call.
Beau looked at his phone just as Bruce’s smiling face disappeared and the call was ended. “Cheater.”
“Are you always that rude to your coworkers?” Cruz asked.
“Stay out of it,” Bissonet said.
Hebert gave Cruz a sympathetic look. “Long story.”
Beau glared at Auggie as he shared the information about the phone records with him and Cruz. They got in Beau’s car and headed to Esplanade Avenue.
Bissonet parked on the street and walked up to the house. He leaned on the intercom at the gate until an unsteady voice finally answered. “Yes?”
“This is Detective Bissonet with the NOPD,” Beau said. “I’d like a few words with Mrs. Villerie, please.”
“This is not a good time,” the voice said.
Bissonet sighed. “I apologize for the intrusion, ma’am, but I must insist.”
There was silence for a few seconds. “Fine, then,” the voice said rather curtly. They all grabbed their ears when a screeching sound escaped the intercom speaker and the gate started to open. “I’ll meet you at the front door.”
When they walked up the steps to the porch, the door opened, and an exhausted-looking Charmaine Villerie appeared in the doorway.
“How may I help you, Detective?”
“I have a few questions for you Mrs. Villerie,” Beau said. “May we come in?”
Charmaine stepped back and opened the door farther, inviting them in.
“This is Detective Hebert and Tollison Cruz,” Beau said, gesturing between the two men. “Mr. Cruz is the insurance investigator sent over by Lloyd’s of London.”
Charmaine nodded. “Can we get this over with, gentlemen? I’m a bit under the weather today.”
“I can only imagine,” Bissonet said. “I’m sure it is quite a shock to have your husband’s paintings stolen and someone murdered in your gallery all in the same night.”
“Indeed,” Mrs. Villerie agreed.
“I’ll get right down to it, Mrs. Villerie,” Hebert said. “What was your relationship with Mr. Emanuel Della Penna?”
Beau watched the blood drain out of Mrs. Villerie’s face, and she became ghostly white. Her head rolled to the side, she stumbled back, and Cruz caught her right before she hit the ground.
November 11, 2014
My name is Montgomery Beaumont Bissonet. Yeah I know it’s a mouthful but blame my grandfather on my mother’s side, I inherited it from him. Well at least the “Montgomery Beaumont” part. But have no fear, you can call me Beau, everyone does.
And since we just met, I must tell you I’m one of the main characters in the latest Scotty Cade novel called “The Royal Street Heist” which is published my Dreamspinner Press and just happens to release today. I’m here with my costar Tollison Cruz and Scotty asked us if we wouldn’t mind spending a little time with you today and hosting the Dreamspinner Press Release Party Blog. And…since we’re intimately close to this novel, we jumped at the chance. But we’re gonna ask you to please be patient with us though as were both a bit nervous. You see I’m a Lead Detective with the New Orleans Police Department and Tollison is an insurance investigator for Lloyds of London and hosting blogs are just not in our job description.
But with that said, We’d like to thank Scotty and Dreamspinner for having faith in us and allowing us to visit with you today in celebration of the very first novel of which I am the star. What Tollison? Oh yeah, costar. Anyway I say the “very first” because Scotty has promised us this is going to be an ongoing series and to tell you the truth, we’re excited as hell about that part because man, do we have lots of wonderful weird cases tucked away in our memories to share with you in the coming months.
Now Tollison is already rolling his eyes so I guess I need to tell you about him too. You’ll formally meet him in the next post, but his full name is Tollison Eduardo Barga Cruz, talk about a mouthful, and as I mentioned he’s an insurance investigator. Anyway, he get’s his nose all up in my case and we get off to a really rough start, but I finally get a clue (yes that’s a cop joke) and realize he’s one of the good guys. Unlike me though, I’m sure you’ll enjoy meeting him from the get go. So enough rambling, let’s talk about me and my roll in the book.
For starters, I’m thirty-four years old and stand about six feet tall. I weigh about two hundred and ten pounds, on a good day, have sandy blonde hair (like my mother) and sometimes blue, sometimes gray eyes (like my father). I don’t work out, but I think I’m in pretty good shape for a man my age. My partner Auggie and fellow detectives give me a lot of shit for what they call my “pouty” lips, which still to this day I can’t seem to shake, but hell, I’ll give them that. Hey! There mug isn’t on the cover of a novel. Right? And I always say, as long as they’re picking on me, they’re leaving some other poor soul alone. But the most important thing about me is that for as far back as I can remember all I’ve ever wanted to be was a cop. I worked my way up from patrolling a beat to detective to lead detective and I pride myself in my strong work ethic and integrity. Yeah I’m cocky, but I’ve earned that title. Also like most cops, I can be guilty of thinking I’m always right, but hell, most of the time I am, so you’ll have to get used to that.
Okay so I grew up in the Garden District of New Orleans near St. Charles Avenue where I still live today and yes; I’m an out and proud gay man. Not very common in my line of work, but who the hell cares. It’s my chosen career, I love it and I’m damn good at it. And yes…for a lot of years I was usually the butt of some pretty raunchy gay jokes and I took a lot of ribbing, but now things have settled down and are a little different. Most of the guys respect me and treat me no differently because I screw guys, well one guy in particular. It was my one and only relationship, which ended badly, but I’ll let you read about that in the book.
So now that you know a little bit about me, I’d like to give you some information about the book. Of course it takes place in my hometown of New Orleans and surrounds a case of art theft that we solved over a year ago. So without further delay, here is the blurb:
When a valuable piece of Civil War art is stolen from a popular New Orleans gallery, NOPD Lead Detective Montgomery “Beau” Bissonet and his partner set out to solve the crime. When the gallery’s insurance company sends Tollison Cruz to the Big Easy to conduct their own independent investigation, personalities clash and battle lines are definitely drawn.
The heist quickly becomes a politically driven high profile case, and Detective Bissonet is furious when he’s ordered to work along side Investigator Cruz to assure a timely arrest. The heat index soars to new levels when the two investigators discover they have a lot more in common then originally thought.
With the tension between them temporarily sated, Bissonet and Cruz finally start to work together, on more then just a professional level. But everything comes to a screeching halt when Beau discovers his cohort in crime has been withholding information regarding the investigation and has been concealing a very questionable past. What happens next rivals the scorching summer heat.
So there you have it.
Tollison and I will be back in a couple of hours when Tollison will be at the helm and he’ll tell you a little about him, give you an excerpt from the book and tell you about how you can win you’re very own copy.
See you soon!
Beau and Tollison
September 26, 2014
Shoes—Ask anyone to describe Aki with one word and they will say “Shoes.” He loves the superficial glitter and glam of his companion lifestyle. Pretty hair pins and sparkly shoes help him forget some the terrible past. He pretends that was all a movie he saw once and he really didn’t live it.
Candy disappeared into the closet for a minute, coming back out with the jumper. “I’m thinking a lace jock. Should I go white for pure fuck-me madness or pink for sugary sweet?”
Candy dug the jock out of his drawer and slipped it on, adjusting everything like the pro he was.
“You really do have more underwear than anyone I know.”
“One word, Aki—Shoes.” Heat filled Aki’s face. Yeah, they were even.
He collects shoes like some people collect knickknacks. The more sparkly the better. Do you have a pair of dream shoes? Pictures please.
September 26, 2014
This book was a step outside several comfort zones for me. First it’s in third person, which I find very challenging because I really want to delve deeply into each characters head but find a lot of characters in one story confusing. I actually began writing Hidden Gem as first person but later changed it because I wanted to show Shane’s point of view as well as Aki’s since Aki is a very unreliable narrator.
The second challenge was the D/s portion of the book. I chatted a long time with several people in the life and perfected as much as I could before taking those things back to them to ask if I was close. Any mistakes I made in this is purely my incompetence not theirs. This is in no way meant to be a BDSM book. However Aki needs structure in his life, someone to take care of him and keep his feet on the ground. J
Paris trains all the companions and believes structure is necessary to their safety and happiness. He is also faced with the task of disciplining those who break the rules. Including the Hidden Gem’s number one companion:
The guards led him inside and up the stairs to Paris’s immaculate suite. They left him standing in the doorway and disappeared back down the stairs. No reason for them to stay. Aki wouldn’t be in this room long. Not if Paris truly meant to punish him. The dungeon was down two floors and tucked away where no one would stumble across it by accident.
Paris sat on the white leather couch, feet up, facing away from the door. The lights cast a reflection of Aki in the window as the sun was beginning to set. He glanced over his outfit again. Would Paris approve? He probably should have worn something easy to strip out of instead of dressing to impress.
Aki frowned and lowered his eyes. “I’m sorry. I can wait downstairs until you’re ready.”
“I’m not the one who needs to be ready, Misaki. I’ve been hearing a lot of not-good things about your exploits of late. Care to give me your version?” Paris rose from his seat and crossed the room to stand in front of Aki.
“I stayed out one night. I got lost. Didn’t have my phone—”
“Sounds a lot like excuses to me,” Paris interrupted. He reached out and traced Aki’s face with his fingertips. Aki closed his eyes as the feeling of a gentle rain caressed his mind. “You dressed nice.”
Aki didn’t reply.
“What do you say?”
“Thank you, Master.”
“You haven’t earned the right to call me that.”
“Sir, sorry, Sir.”
“What are your safewords?” Paris asked, probably more to remind Aki he had the option than because he didn’t know them.
“Red and yellow, Sir.”
“Hard stop and pause. I know your limits, Misaki. Do you?” Paris ran his hands across the shoulder of the sweater. “I see this couture has become your armor. That is well and fine for work, but not here. Strip and present.”
Aki moved without even contemplating the order, removing his shoes, his top, his skirt, and finally the delicate underwear he’d chosen. He folded everything in a neat pile and left them on the floor beside his feet, his phone on top of the stack. He stood shoulders straight, head down, hands gripping his elbows behind his back. The numerous windows open to the world had a flush heating his skin. Anyone could see him. Sure, they were on the second floor, but Paris had guards everywhere. Anyone could be watching him. Even the South. The nasty thought whispered through his mind as he remembered the chip that was supposedly embedded in his back.
“You’re shivering. Are you cold?” Paris asked.
“Hmm.” Paris walked around him, examining him as he had that first day. Aki had been so scrawny then and covered in scars they thought they could never get rid of. His skin had been stretched tight across his bones from starvation, making him little more than a skeleton masquerading as a person. “You’re afraid? You are afraid. Yet unapologetic.”
“I’m sorry, Sir,” Aki said quickly. His heart hammered in his chest. He’d been through this a hundred times, knew the drill, the rules. Paris couldn’t really hurt him unless Aki let him. Why was he so afraid? Memories of the camp and the torture kept filling his mind, but that was all before….
“What are you sorry for?”
“For staying out.”
“I’m not sorry for seeing McNaughton.”
“Hmm.” Paris disappeared for a moment only to return with a blindfold. Aki didn’t try to stop him from tying it in place. No light filtered through the cloth at all, and for a moment Aki was disoriented.
The book has very mild D/s. It is more about Aki’s mindset and how he has chosen to survive all that has been done to him.
We all like to stay in our comfort zones. What have you done lately to push your boundaries and open up your world? How did it turn out? Best answer wins an ecopy of anything from my backlist. Winner announced at 7pm CST
September 26, 2014
Aki truly becomes the shining star of the Hidden Gem. He’s the most favored companion in the entire red light district—his best friend Candy a close second. But Aki has a thing for a certain Irish cop. Shane McNaughton survived the plague of WW3 but it mutated him. He no longer ages, has super human healing abilities, and is forced to change into an animal each month. At nearly a century old there isn’t much Shane hasn’t seen. He’s the head of Missing Persons and recently discovered a certain companion at the Hidden Gem has the ability to find the missing with just a touch. Shane also can’t help but enjoy Aki’s other talents.
But not everything is all booze and a quick polish as Shane would like. He’s got a case with a bunch of dead teenagers. Slaughtered, parts missing, and another kid vanishes—this time a senator’s daughter. The press and officials want his ass on fire for the case, but the leads say the monster they are hunting isn’t human. Shane turns to Aki for help awakening something darker inside the companion that should have remained buried:
With a sigh Aki tugged off his right glove and let his fingers brush the fabric. The room at the Hidden Gem vanished instantly. He raced through the streets of City M, rushing by buildings, cars, people, then to a bedroom. The posters of boy bands hung on the walls and bright bedding decorating the bed said this was the sanctuary of a teenage girl. He knew that what he was holding was a T-shirt. Mandy, the missing girl, had gotten it from her best friend for her last birthday. If Aki unfolded it, he’d have seen the band logo decorating the front and that it was well-worn from constant use. She stared at herself in the mirror for a minute, smiled at the reflection. So young. A happy kid, the world at her fingertips. Obviously she had everything she could ever have wanted. So what had gone wrong?
The world shifted, swirling by fast enough to nearly knock him over with vertigo. He saw Just Shoes and the dark streets, the shoes he wanted so badly, and Mandy’s thoughts about being a princess. Then she’d been taken. Pain exploded in her brain only briefly, then darkness. Only when she awoke, the pain returned, worse than anything Aki had ever experienced before, white-hot, breath-stealing pain. He tried to reason through it, remind himself it wasn’t really him that was hurting, clear his vision, anything to catch a glimpse of something that might show where she was. His head felt like it’d been set on fire, pain beginning around his eyes and spreading outward, down the heavy weight of his body. His limbs were unmovable, unresponsive, almost like they weren’t there. Something hot dripped down his cheeks and over his chest, not hot enough to burn, but warmer, thicker, and heavier than water would be. The distinct “plink” of liquid hitting the ground was the only sound. Aki called to her like he’d never tried before. Would she hear? Could she respond even if she did?
“Mandy? Where are you?”
The pain intensified, sending him spinning in a circle of wary confusion for a few minutes before becoming a suffocating weight on his chest. Blind to the world around him, and not in the way of a blindfold, he tried to reason through his other senses. The realization hit him, and he couldn’t help but try to pull himself away. He knew it was a mistake the second it happened. His world solidified with hers, and he screamed through her lips at the horror, the sound ratcheting off many walls and through a cavernous space. He fought to free himself with every ounce of strength he had as the memory of her eyes being torn out filled him. Thankfully everything went dark and the connection snapped away, taking with it all the pain.
We all read about people with super powers or psychic abilities and think hey that’s cool. Aki has an ability to see everything from a person he touches, which means he has to keep the world at a distance.
What power would you find it most difficult to live with and why? Want your name in a book? Best answer gets added to my next adult title.
September 26, 2014
Aki’s life is nothing short of miraculous. Thrown out by his family for being both a psi and gay he’s dragged off for experimentation at the concentration camps only to later escape and nearly starve to death in the cruel, unwielding world that the War created. One man offers him a
chance to escape by selling his body and favors to other men as a companion:
Misaki sucked in a deep, cold breath, wondering when he’d finally die. How long had it been since he’d last eaten? A week, maybe more? He couldn’t remember the taste of food. Even the gruel they got in the concentration camp had been better than nothing. The cold frost of winter covered the streets and made him shiver. Layers of dirty clothes stolen from the trash and other homeless didn’t help. Somehow the wind blew right through him.
He huddled in a doorway in the heart of the City M slums. There had been talk of police enforcement sweeping through, jailing those like him, throwing others out of town. He could hope for jail. It had a roof, heat, and inmates got food. If he hadn’t just escaped the containment camps of the south, he’d have thought anything would be better than this endless cold and gnawing hunger. But really he’d had it much worse.
People wandered by him. Some even paused to stare. Did he look so awful? “Spare some food?” he whispered, not too proud to beg, but knowing well enough not to meet their eyes. A shadow loomed over him, then another joined the first. He should have been afraid, but they could do nothing that hadn’t already been done. Any violence against him now would likely kill him, and he had longed for death for years.
“He’s a child,” one voice said.
“Small, but I bet he’s legal or will be soon. Good bone structure. Could be pretty with some meat on him,” another replied.
“I have people begging to work for me. What do I need of a street urchin starved near to death?”
“A hidden gem. Give me six weeks with him, and he’ll be one of your biggest earners. I did promise when I bought out my contract that I’d find you a comparable replacement.”
“How can you see this as your replacement, Paris? He’s a psi. People will run the second they glimpse those eerie eyes.”
Their banter bounced back and forth like Misaki couldn’t hear them. He squinted to try to make out the figures without blatantly staring at them. One was younger, handsome, dressed up like some sort of dandy or a prince from a storybook. The other stood tall and firm like a soldier. Misaki cringed away from the older man, too many memories of beatings, experiments, and pain.
“You had a brother who was psi, did you not? You once told me he went missing at a young age. How would you feel if the world treated him like this? Left him out here to die like a rat? I plan to put an end to this homelessness in my new job. No matter how the other senators fight me, I will use my own money if I have to. No child should end up like this.” The younger man was speaking. He knelt down, reaching his hand out. “What if I offer you food, shelter, and safety, little one? Would you come with us?”
False promises. Misaki’d had a lot of those. “What do you want me to do?” he whispered, not daring to hope. No more experiments—please, if there was any sort of god or goddess of life and death, there would be no more. He’d go with them anyway, if only to hasten death. Surely it would take him sooner rather than later. He had already endured so much. The pretty man before him could be an angel from the darkest bowels of hell, and Misaki would still go with him. Maybe he could be warm for a few minutes. Or even have the endless ache in his stomach eased by a bit of broth. He could only dream of having someone to hold him again like Hyeon had. Hope was by far the cruelest of emotions.
“My friend here offers contracts for favors. You’ll have food, shelter, security, all the clothes and pretty things you could ever hope for, and all you have to do is work for him. Ease the troubles of others, provide pleasure, and be all they hope to ever attain, even if it’s only for a half an hour.”
“You want me to be a prostitute?” Misaki couldn’t see anyone wanting the battered shell he was, starved, emaciated, ugly. Who would pay for that? And then there was his curse. “I can’t touch people. I see things….”
The older man sighed. “Useless, Paris. If you want a charity case, so be it. But I don’t know how I can use him.”
“Six weeks, Bart. What is your name, child?” the younger man, Paris, asked.
“Misaki. Misaki Itou.” Please take me with you. Or kill me. Anything but leave me in this misery for one more day.
“A shining star indeed. Six weeks, Bart, and you’ll be unable to hide the brightness of this little gem.”
Sometimes all we really need in a time of struggle is a helping hand or an encouraging smile. Often it’s the littlest things that make the biggest difference. I had a lot of help with this book. Not just in those who helped me with research and beta read the book for me, but also those who encouraged me to keep writing through a really hard year.
Who has inspired you lately and how?
September 26, 2014
In between crafting this new book and the still half-finished Dominion 5 I took a little break from adult m/m romance writing to write a couple m/m ya books under the pen name Sam Kadence: Evolution and On the Right Track. Sequels for both are due out later this year. The Hidden Gem took longer because the world was more intense, deeper, darker, and more painful. Evolution is full of angst and paranormal critters, but it’s based in an alternate version of today. Hidden Gem is speculation of the future—a not so bright future.
Crafting the world came in pieces. Characters first, then situation, then backstory. I probably write a little backwards from most people. Often I don’t know the ending of the book until I get there. Sure I have a general sort of idea. Like maybe I want this to happen, but often that happens instead. With this story it kept pulling surprises out of the most unexpected places. For example, I expected shapeshifters, but not the unusual sort that appears in the end of the book—no spoilers here, sorry.
Just like the Dominion series where I have unusual shifters like lynx, bears, and dolphins—oh my!—Hidden Gem features some shifters outside the norm. Instead of magic for an explanation of the change, I use science. In fact it all starts with this little thing called World War III. Writing the book was a battle, a war in my own head. Had to break down some walls and thought putting that war in the book and how it changed everything would make for a more intense story.
The War begins with a race between countries to create the greatest weapons and super soldier unearths a deadly discovery—a virus that wipes out more than a third of the population. Those who survive being exposed to the virus mutate and the entire human race has begun to change, some developing supernatural powers for which society shuns them:
Sometimes Aki wondered if the stench would ever fade. It lingered, days after a pit of the dead had been set on fire. A new batch of bodies had to have been burned that night. The air and soot covered everything,
and the smell made him retch. How long had Aki sat there, staring into the fire as it consumed corpse after mangled corpse? Just like his own body, ragged people, sick with malnourishment, some missing limbs or scarred from some horrible experiment gone wrong. All with the strange pale pupils in their eyes, the mark of the psi. Punishment for something done a half century ago in another country a world away.
Most of the faces were Asian, though almost none had ever set foot on another continent. Genetic experiments altering the human code to plant a psi ability that was then used in the Third World War turned any who was psi into a villain. Fifty years later, most of the original psis were dead, their children suffered, and the gene flourished, taking root in the most random of children and no longer constrained to foreign soil and faces.
Only a handful could have passed for Caucasian in the camp, other than the guards, of course. Were it not for the shape of his eyes and the color, would Aki ever have been taken? His stomach hurt too much to think about it for long anyway. When was the last time he’d eaten? Days? Maybe a week ago?
Hyeon dragged him to bed sometime after the wailing had died down. The sky was still dark, like the promise of rain that would never come, everyone huddled together on the cold floor for warmth. The building had been some sort of warehouse before the war. Now it was falling down, holes in the roof, birds roosting in the rafters, rats scurrying through the walls, and them.
One of the guards stepped inside, eyes searching the masses, for what, Aki could only fear. But then the detainees weren’t much different than the rats, just another form of pest to be exterminated.
Aki should have slept when Hyeon had laid his dark head next to his, but all he could see was the flame devouring the mutilated bodies of people he’d come to know and see every day. When had he begun to think of them as something more than “them”? In the beginning it had simply been them and him. As long as it happened to them, it was okay.
Until they’d taken a pretty little girl named GuEal away. She’d been seven. Aki had watched what was left of her burn up in the pit. Dry heaved for a while since he hadn’t eaten in days, and prayed to whatever might have more power than soldiers and guards of the containment camp that no more would die, or at least, if he had to, it would be fast.
“H78420, on your feet,” a guard was shouting. It took a minute for the words to seep through the exhaustion and hunger to realize he was talking to Aki. “H78420, now.” The man pulled out a stick and jabbed him with it, delivering a heavy jolt of electricity that had Aki’s spine bowing in pain. “H78420, get up.”
Hyeon dragged him to his feet. “Just do what they say, Aki. Please. Whatever they ask you to do, just do it.”
Aki glanced back at Hyeon’s pretty black eyes, his pupils a pale brown that he’d come to think of as comforting, and wanted to cry. The guard zapped him again, dropping him to his knees.
“Stop, stop, please. He’s coming. Please.” Hyeon pulled Aki up again just as a handful of guards joined the first. They ripped him away from Hyeon, dragging him toward the door. Everything seemed to narrow down to that final trip across the dirty floor toward the dark portal leading to only Goddess knew where. Maybe they’d just throw him in the pit and light him on fire too. At least then it would all be over.
His heart pounded in his chest as two guards remained behind, pushing Hyeon around like he was nothing more than an injured dog to be put down. Aki wanted to beg, anything to free himself and Hyeon from whatever they would do next, but couldn’t find the strength to raise his head or force the words from his parched lips. That had been the last time he’d ever seen Hyeon alive.
A series of medical problems and a couple well-placed documentaries on the Holocaust helped inspire this dark backstory. The book is a look ahead in a world where science is allowed to do whatever they want with only nature as a roadblock. And of course without supervision comes corruption.
Sometimes the darkest stories help us realize that there is light in our lives that make everything so worth every struggle. Without a hard year I probably would never have written this book.
What positive thing came out of a situation you just thought was going to destroy you? Best story wins ebook copy of Hidden Gem. Winner announced at 5 pm CST tonight.