It was the Roaring Twenties, the Jazz Age, the era of Model T Fords, bootleggers and G-men. Spiritualism was all the rage. Everyone wanted to talk to the dead. Except Dr. Alex Gabriel, who thought talking to the dead was ridiculous. Until he met Savannah Bishop, the country’s most unique medium. Using Savannah’s contacts with the World Beyond, Dr. Gabriel and Miss Bishop set out to solve a series of brutal murders that range from the glitz of Hollywood to the backwoods of Arkansas and eventually to the bohemian Left Bank of Paris and finally to pre-Nazi Berlin.
About the Author
Jim Lester holds a PhD in history and is the author of the historical novel, The Blind Boxer and a successful mystery novel called Deadline: New York about the early years of the paperback book industry. He is also the
author of four young adult novels and a non-fiction book entitled Hoop Crazy: College Basketball in the 1950s.
This post ispart of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Connie di Marco will be awarding a $25 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
The Zodiac Mysteries feature San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti, who never thought murder would be part of her practice. In The Madness of Mercury, Julia’s outspoken advice in her newspaper column, AskZodia, makes her the target of a recently-arrived cult preacher who advocates love and compassion to those less fortunate. But the power-hungry preacher is waging war on sin and his Army of the Prophet will stop at nothing to silence those who would stand in his way. Julia is at the top of his list.
Read an Excerpt
“Thank God you’re there.” Gale sounded very shaky.
“I’m at the Mystic Eye. Something very strange just happened. I heard a knock at the back door. I thought it might be you.”
“Are you alone?”
“Yes. I closed up and sent Cheryl home. When I opened the door . . . oh God, Julia. Someone left a dead cat on the doorstep.”
I cringed. “I’ll be right there.”
“I’m sorry. You don’t need to come. I wrapped it up and put it in plastic in the dumpster. It looked like its neck had been broken.”
“Don’t argue. I’ll be there in twenty minutes. Less than that.”
I drove the length of California Street as fast as I could, slowing at each red light. Once I was sure no other cars were crossing I ran through several intersections. When I reached the Eye the shop was closed but the display lights were on in the front windows. I pulled down the alleyway and parked next to Gale’s car. I tapped on the door. “Gale, it’s me.” She opened the door immediately. The storeroom was dark. A stack of empty boxes and packing materials stood against the wall. Inside, the only light was a small desk lamp in the office.
Gale is tall and self-assured with a regal bearing. Tonight she was completely shaken. She hugged her arms, more from fright than from cold. “I feel bad now that I’ve called you. I was just so freaked out. I recognized the cat, it was the little gray one that hangs out behind the apartment building next door. I think it’s a stray. Everyone around here feeds it, even the restaurant people, and it’s such a friendly little thing. Some sick bastard probably gave it some food and then snapped its neck. God, I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Shouldn’t you call the cops?”
“And tell them what? I found a dead cat? Please. Like they’d listen. Even if they thought someone had killed it, what could they do?”
“It shows a pattern of harassment. Might be worth making a report.”
She sighed. “Yeah. You’re probably right. I just wasn’t thinking straight. I was so upset.” She collapsed in the chair behind her desk.
I shrugged out of my coat. “Why are you here so late?”
“We just got a huge shipment of books and supplies in. Cheryl’s been working late every night so I sent her home. I had just finished stacking the boxes in the storeroom.” Gale shivered involuntarily. “Look, let’s get out of here. Have you eaten? Why don’t we go up the block and grab some food? Actually a drink sounds even better.”
“Get your coat. We can leave the cars here and walk. I’ll just get my purse.”
I headed to the front door and checked that the locks were all in place. The drapes separating the display windows from the shop were drawn for privacy. Gale left the desk lamp on in the office and walked out to the front counter. As she reached under the counter for her purse, we heard glass breaking. Then I saw a flash of flame through the doorway to the back storeroom. I screamed. The empty boxes and packing materials had caught fire in an explosive flash. The smoke alarm started to ring, filling the shop with earsplitting sound. Using my coat like a blanket, I dropped it over the center of the flaming pile. It wasn’t going to be enough, but I had to do something before the entire storeroom went up, if not the building.
About the Author:
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring Julia Bonatti, a San Francisco astrologer who never thought murder would be part of her practice: The Madness of Mercury is the first in the series. Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Penguin Random House. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, The Crime Writers Association and Sisters in Crime.
Theodosia “Teddy” Ballard knows nothing about community theater, but when the stage manager for “Little Shop of Horrors” takes a tragic header down the costume-loft stairs, she agrees to fill in for the sake of her actor friend, Will. Teddy takes the superstitions and swelled heads of The Stage in stride—till she meets George Clancy Everhart, the theater ghost, who informs her that the previous stage manager was murdered and demands that she find the killer. Both investigation and rehearsals are complicated when she makes a surprising discovery about her relationship with Will—and learns that George has his own dramatic agenda.
There was no way I had left a door open, but I got up and checked again. Must be a draft from somewhere in this old building. I retrieved the scattered pages and made sure they were in the right order.
I heard a thud as if something had fallen over backstage. Looking in the wings, I found a hammer on the floor. I put it back where it belonged and returned to my papers.
An overhead light flickered, red, then green, then white.
“All right, that’s enough.” I got to my feet for the third time. “Good joke, Will. Ha, ha. Now show yourself.”
“I beg your pardon, dear lady,” said a deep voice.
I stared in disbelief as a man appeared before me. He was tall and elegantly dressed in a three piece suit and cravat. His features were blurry, but he had an aristocratic air, a distinctive nose, and a satisfied smile.
He removed his bowler hat and bowed. “George Clancy Everhart, at your service.”
I didn’t know how Will had managed to create this image. This must have been some bizarre rite of passage for people new to the theater. Well, it wasn’t going to rattle me.
“Theodosia Ballard,” I said. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Theodosia! What a splendid name!”
“I prefer Teddy.”
“Teddy? That’s a boy’s name! You are a woman, and a very fine woman, at that. Such a magnificent presence! You should be on stage.”
“I am on stage right now, and I have a lot of work to do, so you can turn yourself off, disappear, whatever, just go away.”
He looked startled. “You don’t believe in me.”
“I believe you’re a really good special effect. Go on now, get lost.”
The image drew himself up. “My good woman, you are speaking to one of the premiere actors of the Twentieth Century. Why, I appeared in hundreds of plays during my lifetime. Thousands of performances! All to great acclaim!”
“I’m sure you did.”
“Excellent reviews! Encores by the score!”
“Then why are you haunting a little theater in Rossboro, North Carolina? Shouldn’t you be in New York? London?”
He paused and put a hand to his heart. “You wound me to the core, Theodosia. In my later years, my career took a sad tumble. Like your lover William, I was unable to continue my passion for Broadway. I ended up here, disillusioned but undefeated.”
“Whoa, hold on, buster. Will is not my lover. And how do you know about his New York experience?” I’d had enough. “Will, stop this right now. It isn’t funny.”
“I agree, Theodosia. It is tragic. The boy has such talent, such a love for theater.”
“Stop it.” I moved to push the man away, but my hands went right through him, and I almost fell into the orchestra pit. A strong force shoved me away from the edge.
“Dear me,” he said. “You must be more careful.”
I caught my breath. “I don’t believe in ghosts. Why are you here?”
“Because you need my help,” he said.
“What do I need your help for?”
“Why, to solve the murder, of course! I liked Paula. She was efficient. I admired her work ethic. I do hope you have a strong work ethic, Theodosia.”
“Wait, wait. Go back to the first thing. Solve the murder? No one’s calling Paula’s death a murder!”
“But it was,” George Clancy Everhart said. “I saw it.”
Jane Tesh, a retired media specialist, lives in Mt. Airy, North Carolina, Andy Griffith’s home town, the real Mayberry. She is the author of the Madeline Maclin Mysteries, featuring former beauty queen, Madeline “Mac” Maclin and her reformed con man husband, Jerry Fairweather, and the Grace Street Mystery Series, featuring struggling PI David Randall, his psychic friend, Camden, and an array of tenants who move in and out of Cam’s boarding house at 302 Grace Street. Ghost Light is her first standalone mystery and the first to feature an asexual heroine.
A ghost collector grows deadlier than the spirits he hunts…
Shane Ryan knows all about pain and suffering. A retired Marine gunnery sergeant, Shane has seen the worst humanity has to offer. He survived his ordeal, but his soul has been tainted by the darkness, leaving him with a permanent connection to the world of the supernatural.
Shane sees the spirits of the dead, he hears their whispered cries of pain. And it’s a gift he plans to put to good use, when he travels to Detroit to investigate the death of one woman who saw through all the darkness in his heart. A woman who became his lover, many years ago.
Shane is certain she was working a case, tracking down a deadly collector of the paranormal. And he’s determined to use his abilities to force the spirits haunting the urban sprawl to reveal her killer. But when he clashes with retired police detective Enoch Liddell, Shane realizes he’s not the only one hunting ghosts.
The two men soon find themselves locked in a supernatural game of cat and mouse. But it will take more than guts and guns to defeat this opponent, and his sinister ally…
More Shane Ryan!! I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this character. He’s all kinds of awesome. So finding out he’s the main character in Death Hunter was beyond exciting.
Shane is embroiled in yet another paranormal mystery involving the dead. With people dying, haunted items being stolen, and a lot of new players to keep track of, City of Ghosts held me spellbound from page one. Action. Drama. Suspense. It has it all.
I believe I just found the next series I’m going to binge-read. And I can’t wait!
*Disclaimer: I purchased/borrowed a copy of this title from Amazon. Neither the author nor publisher requested a review.
Happy publication day to Kate Anslinger! Check out her new book Chasing Ghosts (A Grace McKenna Mystery Novel)!
Chasing Ghosts (A Grace McKenna Mystery Novel)
Publication Date: June 1st, 2022
Genre: Mystery/ Thriller
What would you do if you could see haunting images in a criminal’s eyes?
Detective Grace McKenna’s mother has always told her that she has a gift.
When she looks into a criminal’s eyes she can see haunting images of victims who have been wronged.
One of those visions is the face of Jenny Silva, a high school art teacher who has gone missing from the small town of Bridgeton, Massachusetts, where Grace works.
When she makes eye contact with the possible suspect, Jenny’s tortured face flashes before Grace, leaving an unsettling imprint on her.
Grace finds herself making tough decisions to solve a case on her own, where she stumbles across town secrets and gets mixed up in an unlikely love affair.
Sometimes a wrong can find a way to be righted all on its own!
Will Grace be able to solve this case on her own?
A set of beady blue eyes overpowering the face of a teenage girl tore Grace from the present moment. The girl’s mouth was contorted into an angry frown emphasized by black lipstick that matched her shoulder-length straight black hair. The skin on her chin and right cheek was dotted in bumps and covered in varying shades of red as if she had tried to cover up teenage acne. Her neck and collar bone area were covered in blue and red blotches that looked like fingerprints pressed into her skin. A black winter hat with a white bat was pulled down to her eyebrows, enhancing the eyeliner that dipped in smudges beneath her eyes. The dead ends of her hair sprouted out the bottom of the hat and hit the collar of a black and white flannel shirt. Her face, filled with fright, transformed into an Edvard Munch Scream print upon an orange and red wavy background.
A new instinct kicked in and without thought, Grace’s hand went straight to her stomach, holding it like she was protecting a glass snow globe from falling to the floor and shattering. And as soon as she recognized how she had executed a mama bear’s intuition naturally and without a second thought, it dawned on her just how challenging motherhood would be. The baby that was rapidly growing in her womb would always come between her and the victims.
If Charlotte noticed alarm on Grace’s face, she didn’t show it. Instead, she smiled and tilted her head to the side, introducing the woman next to her. “Amy, this is Grace, we met by the bathroom. And we just happen to be a couple weeks apart in our pregnancies.”
A marked pause interrupted the space between them before Amy spoke. With a shifty gaze, Amy’s eyes rose from Grace’s shoes all the way up to her hairline. “It’s nice to meet you, Grace.” Her words ended in a hiss as she dropped a pair of crossed hands on a set of crossed legs decorated in pressed khaki pants. A pale blue cashmere sweater held tight to her perky breasts and was offset by a crisp white collar that peeked out the top like bird wings. Her posture was awkwardly erect, as if she was one of those mannequins strategically placed in department stores, free of any natural slump.
Naturally, Grace was inquisitive about the connection between the two women. Amy looked too young to be Charlotte’s mother, but too old to be a supportive friend accompanying her to her appointment. An older sister? A cousin? Whoever Amy was, Grace was now aware that the woman was responsible for the harm of the teenage girl who showed herself in the vision. Just as the conspicuous silence following the introduction was about to get awkward, a nurse emerged from the hallway and called out a name. Grace turned to see an older woman in the pale pink scrub uniform, haircut and highlighted in a style that was popular in the mid-nineties, when Jennifer Aniston set the example with long, face-framing layers. The nurse scanned the room, and with some force behind her voice she tried again. “Charlotte Anderson.”
“Well, that’s me.” Charlotte started to push herself up off the chair, until Amy hopped up and reached an arm across her back, guiding her to an upright position until she was face to face with Grace.
“Easy there, Charlotte. Precious cargo.” Grace stepped out of the way as Amy guided Charlotte to the nurse, like a mother ushering her toddler. As the connected duo passed by, Grace recognized the embarrassment that had come to the surface on Charlotte’s face.
“I’ll see you around and if I don’t, good luck with your pregnancy.” Charlotte swiveled her head, locking eyes with Grace as Amy continued to shepherd her down the hall, keeping the two of them at a snail’s pace.
“You too.” Grace waved a hand, committing Amy’s silhouette to memory.
Kate Anslinger is the author of the McKenna Mystery novels, a series that follows Detective Grace McKenna on her spree of secretly solving crimes with the help of her gift to see clues in the eyes of criminals. In addition to her life as a novelist, Kate is a ghostwriter, editor, freelance writer and a veteran of the United States Air Force. Her debut novel Saving Jason, touches upon the struggles of PTSD, a topic that is near and dear to her heart. Kate lives on the North Shore of Boston with her husband, two daughters, and Newfoundland pup.
Carly, Maddie, Pilot and Cornelious have been waiting forever for their Seniors Only Cruise. After three years of solving crime in their small town, this trip is the relaxing break from Asbury they need. Dreaming of all the fun and drama-free adventures in store for them, the gang settles in for a calm summer cruise.
Soon after departing, things don’t go quite as planned. With strange, new additions to their itinerary, Asbury’s favorite sleuths detect something is amiss. When violence breaks out, Cornelious turns to the captain who quickly reassures everyone aboard. After all, what reason would the crew have to mess with a group of teenagers? Adding to their troubles is Cornelious’ cousin Dane, whose feelings for Maddie have only grown stronger.
Excited to be away from his father and finally dating Maddie, Cornelious tries to ignore his cousin as his insecurities fester. After a stirring revelation from Dane, Cornelious retreats from his friends and finds solace in the ship’s jolly Captain Dex. At the same time, Carly, Maddie and Pilot begin to suspect the crew, believing there’s more than meets the eye with this cruise. Frustrated by Cornelious’ withdrawal, the gang doubles down on their efforts to discover the crew’s motives. Pulled into a dangerous game of who to trust, the gang is determined to find the truth—and mend their friendship.
With relationships called into question and stunning secrets exposed, the gang faces their biggest obstacle yet—trust. Can Cornelious trust the captain more than his friends? With their peers placing blind trust in the crew, can the gang convince them otherwise, before it’s too late? Or are Pilot, Carly and Maddie just overreacting? With constantly changing itineraries, a scheming crew lurking behind every door, a happy-go-lucky captain refusing to dig deeper, and lifelong relationships put to the test, can the gang rekindle their relationship with each other and figure out what’s really going on?
About the Author
Growing up just over the bridge from Ocean City, NJ in Upper Township meant discovering plenty of fun places to both read, write, and run around outside like a maniac. For as long as she could remember, Kelly loved making up stories, and leaving her listeners/readers on the edge of their seats.
After graduating from Ocean City High School, Kelly accepted a basketball scholarship to Holy Family University, in Philadelphia. Upon graduating college, Kelly continued to live in Philly, teaching for four years, and meeting the love of her life during a snowstorm. In fact, it was her awesome husband who encouraged her to pursue her writing–Yay, Ryan!
Before writing page-turners however, she taught first, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade — like a dessert menu, she simply had to test them all out. But her favorite job is the one she’s now doing full time: writing.
As her first published work, the Asbury High series has been brewing since she was 18, and has something for every type of reader–go ahead take look for yourself! If you love mysteries, you’ve found your new favorite author. Kelly loves to craft whodunit mysteries, leading readers through various twists and turns filled with red-herrings, hidden clues, and more peculiar characters than a reality show. As an athlete, she hopes that the importance of teamwork and overcoming adversity, is also quite clear in her writing
Kelly lives in South Jersey with her handsome husband, energetic baby boys, two cookie-stealing dogs, and an awfully smart cat. If you want to know when Kelly’s next book will come out, please visit her website at http://www.kbchannick.com, where you can sign up to receive emails providing updates for new releases, or contact her directly, as well as win fun giveaways, and receive up to date news.
After encountering a brief power outage at work, college student Sara
Donovan might be allowing her imagination to run wild. The main vault in the
Carlton Museum holds the Fire and Ice Exhibit, a collection of rare gems,
including the Star of Midnight, a 175-carat diamond. Although all the stones
are accounted for, Sara suspects the Star of Midnight was stolen and
replaced with a fake.
While conducting her own investigation, what Sara uncovers is beyond even
her wildest imagination: a coded message, papers with strange characters,
and a mysterious set of numbers carved into an office wall. Despite
dismissive historians and other experts, she is certain these clues point to
a mysterious centuries-old legend.
Unfortunately, her colorful history of usually being right, but always
being wrong, means she must solve the mystery to prove her theory.
About the Author
B.T. Polcari is a graduate of Rutgers College of Rutgers University, an
award-winning mystery author, and a proud father of two wonderful children.
He’s a champion of rescue pups (Mauzzy is a rescue), craves watching
football and basketball, and, of course, loves reading mysteries. Among his
favorite authors are D.P. Lyle, Robert B. Parker, and Michael Connelly. He
is also an unapologetic fantasy football addict. He lives with his wife in
scenic Chattanooga, Tennessee.
We’re celebrating the release of author Arthur Herbert’s latest whodunnit, The Bones of Amoret! Read on for more details and a chance to win a signed copy of the book!
The Bones of Amoret
Publication Date: February 13th, 2022
Genre: Mystery/ Suspense
Amoret, Texas, 1982. Life along the border is harsh, but in a world where cultures work together to carve a living from the desert landscape, Blaine Beckett lives a life of isolation. A transplanted Boston intellectual, for twenty years locals have viewed him as a snob, a misanthrope, an outsider. He seems content to stand apart until one night when he vanishes into thin air amid signs of foul play.
Noah Grady, the town doctor, is a charming and popular good ol’ boy. He’s also a keeper of secrets, both the town’s and his own. He watches from afar as the mystery of Blaine’s disappearance unravels and rumors fly. Were the incipient cartels responsible? Was it a local with a grudge? Or did Blaine himself orchestrate his own disappearance? Then the unthinkable happens, and Noah begins to realize he’s considered a suspect.
Paced like a lit fuse and full of dizzying plot twists, The Bones of Amoret is a riveting whodunit that will keep you guessing all the way to its shocking conclusion.”
Arthur Herbert was born and raised in small town Texas. He worked on offshore oil rigs, as a bartender, a landscaper at a trailer park, and as a social worker before going to medical school. He chose to do a residency in general surgery, followed by a fellowship in critical care and trauma surgery. For the last seventeen years, he’s worked as a trauma and burn surgeon, operating on all ages of injured patients. He continues to run a thriving practice.
In this enigmatic follow up to his critically acclaimed debut novel The Cuts that Cure, Arthur Herbert returns to the Texas-Mexico border with this saga of a small town’s bloody loss of innocence.
Arthur currently lives in New Orleans, with his wife Amy and their dogs. He loves hearing from his readers, so don’t hesitate to email him at email@example.com
This week we are celebrating the release of Betrayed in the Bluegrass by Virginia Slachman. Read on for details and a chance to win a $25 Amazon e-gift card!
Betrayed in the Bluegrass
Publication Date: January 15th, 2022
Genre: Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller
Lexington Thoroughbred racing’s “power couple” Harper Hill and her husband, Detective JD Cole unite in this, the second in Slachman’s “Bluegrass” horse racing series. When a mysterious man, beaten and tortured, stumbles into the police precinct asking for JD, then dies before he can divulge his secret, a series of events are set in motion that will put the couples’ detecting power to the test and Harper’s life in grave danger. Soon after, Aubrey Lowen, Harper’s second cousin, is found severely beaten by the side of the road. Hospitalized, he hovers between life and death as Harper heads to Keeneland’s backstretch to keep an eye Lowen’s head trainer, Henley Smythe, who seems up to no good. As Harper tries desperately to uncover the culprit and help Aubrey’s wife Millie save their once-successful Thoroughbred farm, a dangerous character from Harper’s past shows up on the backstretch. Amid the dark pool of danger swirling around Harper, JD announces that the Feds have stepped in, preventing the couple from continuing their investigation. Undeterred, the two work under the radar to stop a killer bent on destroying the Lowen legacy and anyone who gets in the way. As murder and greed haunt every step they take, the couple knows that buried deep in Keeneland’s chaos the killer lies in wait—but uncovering the murderer just may cost Harper her life.
Harper had put the past behind her. Or so she thought. Fleeing the flashy, high dollar world of Kentucky horse racing for NYC, she’d been content living the life of a successful painter. But escape isn’t an option after the accidental death of her sister sends her back to the Bluegrass, a horse racing world filled with hope and heartbreak. As the body count rises as Eden Hill, Harper becomes convinced her sister’s death was no accident. Probing more deeply, Harper realizes Paris’ death is tied to a dark and deadly secret, one she discovers is why her racehorses are dying. Solving her sister’s murder and saving her family’s stud farm will take every ounce of Harper’s wit and courage. When seven skeletons are discovered on the grounds, and the barn with her best Kentucky Derby prospects is set on fire, Harper bears down to find the killer. The problem is, the culprit could be anyone: Is it JD, her childhood sweetheart, Marshall, their long-time trainer, or is it their nasty neighbor Red Cole, in partnership with her family for generations?
Someone is on a killing spree, and though Harper doesn’t know why, she is sure of one thing–the murderer is someone she’s known and trusted her whole life.
Virginia Slachman was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and has taught creative writing and literature at the college level for over twenty years. The recipient of numerous awards and fellowships for writing, she’s published several volumes of poetry; Many Brave Hearts, a memoir about her family’s experience with PTSD; and most recently Blood in the Bluegrass and Betrayed in the Bluegrass, the first two books in her mystery series set on a thoroughbred breeding farm in Kentucky.
An American tourist is murdered in a gay sauna in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Amanda Pennyworth, the American consul to that vacation resort, risks her career and her life to find the culprit. Amanda works with a junior officer of the Tourist Police in the search for suspects in the secretive underworld of this popular vacation spot. When a young Mexican boy is arrested by the impatient and brutal police chief on flimsy evidence, Amanda is convinced that it is a terrible mistake. But no one is willing to listen to her: certainly not the arrogant chief of police; not the boy’s parents who seem to blame her for the murder; and not the cynical American Ambassador who only wants to avoid an international incident. It’s up to her.
This is the second in a series of novels featuring the amateur sleuth, Amanda Pennyworth who finds, much to her surprise, that among her duties as consul for the United States is the dangerous pursuit of murderers.
Other books in the Amanda Pennyworth mystery series:
When Amanda Pennyworth began her assignment as American Consul in the beautiful resort city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, she had no inkling she would be called upon to solve the mysterious disappearance of a famous expat writer. However, when he vanishes—the victim of a kidnapping—Amanda is drawn into the desperate search to save his life. Negotiating the competing layers of Mexican police: the Federales, the local constabulary, and the tourist police, she is pulled deeper into what she realizes too late is a cunning and deadly plot.
Rodrigo slowly backed out from the utility closet, banging the mop hoisted over his shoulder against the door. Turning around, he tried twice to prop it against one of the stools next to the bar, but each time it fell onto the tile floor with a clatter. In his right hand, he carried a bucket of water, so full that it slopped over the edge when he set it down next to the counter.
“Watch what you’re doing, damn it!” Antonio cried, without looking over the ledge to measure the spill. “Did you inspect all the rooms?”
“Number 201 has still got has stuff in it. At least there are clothes on the hook and the towel is gone.”
“And the key hasn’t been turned back in either,” Antonio said as he glanced at the rack behind him. “So the guy must still be around. Have you checked everywhere?”
“Not yet. Just going to.”
“Well, get to it. He’s probably sleeping it off somewhere. Wake him up and get him out of here. We’re not running a fucking hotel!”
Antonio was tired and hot and anxious to close up. The temperature outside, even though it was after 2:00 in the morning had to be at least 90 degrees, and inside, give it even three or four more despite the fans that just blew the heat around like the hot breath of desire. He turned around again and reached up to the console behind him and switched off the music. The sudden quiet, as the steady disco beat died out, felt like relief from a throbbing headache he didn’t know he had. Then, touching a switch on the wall, he turned on the fluorescent lights. The red glow from the recessed overhead lamps that had disguised every fault and feature with a romantic blur dissolved into a flood of stark white exposing the dark, uneven floor, the blemished and cracked grey walls. The unforgiving glare was bright enough to wipe any illusions, and ended the allure of this palace of dingy dreams. Further on, there was the dark well of a staircase that led down to the level below. The steps behind him that led up to private rooms.
“Make sure you check in the sauna and steam area,” he shouted after Rodrigo, who was just disappearing around the curve in his descent.
Once on the basement level, Rodrigo walked across the dim corridor and stopped in front of the wooden enclosure of the sauna. He peered into the small glass window on the door, but the light was off and he could barely make out the shapes of the benches. Opening it up, the heat spilled out, sweeping over him. He could smell the combination of wood resin and sweat. But the room was empty.
He walked further on to the glass door of the steam room. Pulling it open, he entered the damp gloomy space, edged past the tile-covered bench on the right side, and then turned around a corner into the darkened back area. Condensation from the ceiling dribbled on his forehead and he wiped his eyes to get a better look. There was just enough light to see a shape stretched out on one of the side benches.
“Vamos, Amigo, estamos cerrados,” he said. And then repeated his words in English—louder this time. There was no response, so he moved closer. He could see now that the person was entirely naked, resting on a towel. He reached down and shook the man’s shoulder.
“Wake up!” he said. “Get up!”
There was still no response.
Then, with both hands, he seized the man’s dangling left arm and tried to pull him up. But the unexpected dead weight was so much that the man slipped onto the floor instead.
“Damn!” he shouted. “Damn! He’s dead drunk!”
Retracing his steps, he hurried halfway up the staircase where he paused and called out to Antonio:
“Found someone, but he’s drunk and I couldn’t wake him up. What should I do?”
“Fuck!” cried Antonio as he walked around the edge of the bar. “I’ll come down with you and together maybe we can carry him out. How big is he?”
“Couldn’t really tell. Just lying there on the floor. It’s dark you know.”
The two of them descended the stairs and Rodrigo switched on the overhead lights at that level.
“And when we’re done,” he added. “Make sure you mop the floor in there. God only knows what….”
Rodrigo held the door of the steam room and then propped it open with a rubber shim that had rested inconspicuously against the wall. Antonio waited for him and together they edged around to the dark alcove. The man was still lying on the floor.
“Is this how you found him?”
“Well, yes; not exactly. I mean, I tried to get him up, but couldn’t. He’s too heavy and out cold. That’s why I called you.”
“OK, then you grab his legs and I’ll take his shoulders and we can steer him out of here and onto one of the benches outside.”
“Damn, that’s a lot; dead weight,” Rodrigo groaned, hoisting his ankles.
“Stop complaining! I’ve got him, so just back up and don’t drop him….Come on, Amigo. Wake up and help us out a bit!”
They struggled, half dragging the naked body out of the steam room, but instead of putting him on one of the benches or the worn couch at the side of the sauna enclosure, they just left him lying on his back on the floor.
“OK, Amigo, wake up. Last call! We’re closed!” Antonio said, bending over and looking at the man’s face.
“Definitely an American or at least a foreigner. Get a towel, Rodrigo, and cover him up while I try to wake him.”
Antonio crouched down on his haunches and felt the man’s face. It was warm, but there was no reaction. He grasped an arm, raised it up and then let it drop.
Rodrigo returned with two towels and placed them over the man’s body.
“Do you think he’s dead?” he asked suddenly.
“How should I know? Don’t know how to tell,” Antonio answered. “He’s not cold. And not stiff.”
“Feel for his pulse. I seen them do it on television. Feel his neck. That’s what the detectives always do.”
Antonio put his fingers around the man’s neck and waited. “I don’t feel anything. How am I supposed to know?”
“Those TV detectives can always tell, right away.”
“Yeah, but I’m not a detective! I think I’m going to have to call the police.”
“That won’t be good for business if he’s dead. Do you think he stayed in the steam room too long?”
“Don’t be crazy; it’s not warm enough in there to wilt a flower. Probably just had a heart attack or something. But he’s awfully young for that.”
“Do you see those red marks on his throat? Looks like maybe he was strangled.”
“He seems dead, so I guess he was. But you’re an expert now?”
“Just what I seen on American shows. Bruises where you press down hard. I don’t know nothing.”
Antonio stood up and walked toward the staircase: “Stay there, Rodrigo, I’m going to call the Tourist Police. In case he moves, let me know.”
“He ain’t gonna’ move. For sure.”
Reaching the main floor, Antonio walked quickly around the bar and through the door in back leading into the small office that also fronted the entrance, where customers standing behind a wire grill, passed their money through and picked up keys to lockers or retiring rooms and a towel and plastic flip flops. It was also where he kept his cellphone. He dialed the number and a sleepy voice answered:
“Is Captain Morelos there?”
“No. Sorry. He’s been transferred to Oaxaca.”
“Then can I speak to whoever is there?”
“You can tell me what’s the problem. If I decide it’s important I’ll pass you on to anybody.”
“Listen. This is serious! I’m Antonio Lopez at the Olympiad sauna. We got a customer that we can’t seem to wake up. I think he might be dead.”
“Did you try his pulse? Maybe he’s just drunk.”
“More than that, I’m afraid. You need to send someone around. Right away. I got to close this place up.”
“OK, OK. I’ll see if anyone is here and I’ll send them over.”
“How about sending a doctor or maybe an ambulance too? So you can get him out of here.”
“We’ll see about that when we get there.”
The police car pulled up in front about a half hour later. A tired looking officer dressed in crumpled fatigues and a middle-aged woman wearing slacks and a sweatshirt and carrying a black bag—someone who might have been a doctor or the Medical Examiner but without a uniform—came through the open doorway, up the stairs, and rang the bell in the entrance alcove. Antonio buzzed them inside.
“I’m Captain Gonzalez,” said the officer, pushing into the entranceway. “Just happened to be on duty and about to go home when you called. This is Senora Sanchez.” He seemed peeved by the interruption to his day. “Where’s the body?”
“I don’t want no trouble; we never had no trouble here,” Antonio said, as he guided them to the staircase and then down into the basement level. He turned to look at them as they followed: “He hasn’t moved since we took him out of the steam room.”
“So you moved him?” the examiner shook her head as she was pulling on a pair of plastic gloves. “That’s not very smart. Shouldn’t have.” She walked over to the body and crouched down, placing her fingers along the artery of his neck. She picked up and flexed his limp arm and then noticed the blotches on his neck.
“Do you think you could shine a flashlight on these marks,” she asked the officer. I can’t be sure, and won’t know until I have him back at the station, but it looks like he was strangled. You can see some bruising. And not too long ago. No signs of rigor yet.”
Then standing and addressing Antonio: “Do you have any identification for him? He looks like a foreigner. Could be about 25 years old or so.”
“Use your pass key and go look in his room again, Rodrigo, bring his clothes and anything else you find in his room,” Antonio ordered.
“Just a minute,” interrupted the woman. “I’m coming with you. And you’re not going to touch anything, understand?”
“But I already have…awhile ago. And I don’t need the key; I left the door open.”
“Come along and be quiet,” she said.. “Just show me the room and then stay out of my way! Anything else you did to corrupt the crime scene?”
Rodrigo was about to answer but thought she would just accuse him again.
So the two climbed up the staircase to the upper landing in silence while Antonio and the officer remained below staring down at the body.
“I don’t want no trouble,” said Antonio, in a tone that sounded more like a question than an assertion. “We never have no trouble here.”
“Yes, you said that before. But looks like you’ve got a lot of trouble now. Not much else I can say right off. But certainly it looks like a murder, and a foreigner too. Can’t think of anything worse for you. We’ll have to close your place down for a few days… maybe a week or two. Tomorrow, I’ll send a team to look for fingerprints. And don’t be surprised if you find a few things out of order.”
“But Officer; how long? We have to clean the rooms!”
“You’re not listening very carefully. You need to think about how you can help us instead of mopping the floors. And when we’re done here tonight, I want you and your helper to lock up. And plan to stay shut until I tell you to. Don’t have to tell you not to touch anything. And you’ll have to come to the station of course… a lot of questions to answer…but later.”
Approaching the row of cubicles on the second floor above the bar, Rodrigo led the Medical Examiner to the open door of 201. He switched on the single bulb light inside, which cast a weak glow around the tiny space, and let her step in first because there was scarcely any room to turn around. She entered and sidled along the raised wooden platform bed that was covered in some sort of plastic material and a crumpled sheet. The wall abutting it was mirrored up to the ceiling. Toward the far end there was a small built-in table. On top of it was a plastic water bottle, and above, to the right was a wall hook with a pair of jeans and a T-shirt still hanging.
Taking both items of clothing down, she spread them out onto the platform and turned the pockets of the jeans inside out. Both in front were empty except for a few coins on the right side. Reaching underneath, she took a wallet out of the back right pocket. It was empty except for a vehicle insurance card. In the dim glare, she could make out the name “Jeremy Blackman” with an address in Los Angeles.
“Was the door to this cubicle unlocked when you came to check on him?”
“I don’t remember, Senora; what I mean is, I always use my key so I wouldn’t know if it was or wasn’t, would I?”
“Do you have some system of lock-boxes? Somewhere he might have put money, credit cards, a passport?”
“And did you did find the room key anywhere on the body?”
“No. I didn’t see that neither. It would have been on an elastic band. Guys put them on their wrist or ankle sometimes.”
“You’re sure it didn’t fall off when you carried him out of the steam room?”
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure, but I’ll go back and look again.”
The Medical Examiner gave him an exasperated look, but said nothing further. She backed out of the room and walked swiftly along the corridor and down the two flights of stairs back to where the body was stretched out on the floor. Rodrigo followed, staying carefully well behind her.
“I’ve got an I.D. for him, some sort of insurance card from Los Angeles, but it looks very likely that he was robbed,” she told Captain Gonzalez. “No cash, no credit cards, no passport. Whether that has anything to do with his death is, of course, for someone else to prove. And I looked, but there was no key inside the cubicle, as you can see, none on his wrist and there was nothing in his pockets. Maybe when you do a more thorough search, you’ll find it.” Addressing Antonio, she continued: “Did anyone turn in the key?”
“No Senora. Whoever did this I think has taken the key with him.”
“Perhaps. We don’t know that yet. Maybe it will turn up when we’ve done a more thorough search.”
“As for the cause of death,” she said, turning to the Captain Gonzalez, “I’ll have a report for you tomorrow sometime once you get the body back to my lab. And I’ll tell you definitively if it was murder or not. But it looks like it.”
“Thanks Senora,” the officer mumbled. “I’ll deliver the body as soon as I can get an ambulance here. In the meantime, can you give me the insurance card? If that’s him and he’s an American, I’ll have to notify the Consulate.
“Good luck with that!”
“You know as well as I do, what; she makes trouble.”
The officer turned to Antonio who had moved away from the body, recoiling as if it was contaminated: “I want a list of names: everyone who entered today and, if you can, the time that this person arrived.”
“I’m sorry Officer, but we don’t keep a list of names. This ain’t a hotel.”
“OK, then, passport numbers or ID numbers for any locals will do.”
“Might not be complete.”
“Aren’t you supposed to check everyone who enters? What kind of a place is this?”
Antonio took a step backwards and almost sat down abruptly onto one of the benches along the wall.
“I’m sorry, Sir, yes, we usually check ID’s for the age of the person. And we generally write down the ID number. But maybe if Rodrigo was at the window, he might have forgotten to. He’s not very careful sometimes. So you’ll have to ask him. But listen: we never had trouble, here. And we have to be discrete, you know.”
“Well, in this case, I think you’ve got considerable trouble….Hardly the time to be worried about anyone’s reputation. Do you remember him—the victim—when he arrived and if he was alone?”
“I think maybe I was the one who checked him in. I seem to remember there were two them: Americans, I think, about the same age… young anyway. So if they actually came together, then one of them has obviously left alone. I can’t tell you exactly when; probably Rodrigo checked him out. You know it’s very simple process. They just shove their towels and sheets into a hamper by the exit and return their shoes and keys. I’m not sure I’d remember anyone leaving specifically. Sometimes I just buzz them out without looking if I’m busy at the bar. But ask Rodrigo; maybe he….” Antonio was intentionally vague; not because he knew something and didn’t want to say, but he figured if he sounded unreliable, the policeman would stop asking him questions.
“Then I’ll want that list of those entries you have before I leave.”
“I’m not sure I should give it to you,” Antonio said, after a pause. A look of dread spread over his face. “People who come here don’t want to have their names known. It could cause terrible trouble for me if you investigate them. I’m sure you understand.”
Gonzalez scowled and took a step toward him: “That’s not my problem. If this is a murder, and I think it is, any one of your clients could be the killer. I need those ID numbers. You’re to give me list before I leave. I don’t give a damn about anonymous or about your business.”
He then turned his gaze to the assistant who was sitting on a bench down at the end of the corridor. Rodrigo looked up anxiously when the policeman approached.
“Do you remember two Americans? The person lying here and maybe a friend of his? Did you see them together or check the other one out?”
Rodrigo stood up and stared blankly for a minute:
“I never pay any attention to the guys here whether they’re American or not,” he said, backing up against the bench he had been sitting on.
“Never make eye contact, because if you do…. I just work here; I’m not one of them!”
“I don’t care what you are or aren’t. Just tell me, did you see them together?”
“Not that I remember. But I do know that one American left earlier because I had to ask him for his towel. He’d left it in the locker area and I certainly wasn’t going to get it for him. But he may not be the one you mean. We get lots of foreigners here.”
“So that man you remember didn’t have a room?”
“I guess not. I didn’t check his key. But that wouldn’t be unusual. If two guys came together why would each need a separate room? But then this isn’t a place where anyone wants to explain what they’re doing or why. So who knows?”
“Do you remember what time it was? Approximately?”
“I don’t know. Maybe around 11:00 or so. I usually go outside for a few minutes around that time. Get some fresh air. Could have been then or when I came back in.”
“So you really don’t know.”
“That’s right. I don’t pay no attention. I just do my job without looking. I don’t get paid to see things.”
Gonzalez stared at Rodrigo for a moment and then decided that he kept repeating himself because of nerves. And probably knew nothing more. But he would keep an ear open for anything suspicious about him just the same. He wasn’t sure he could trust anyone here. And the whole place…maybe the late hour…and a foreigner murdered! He could expect nothing but trouble.
About the Author
James Gilbert is the author of four published novels, two of them in the Amanda Pennyworth Mystery Series. Two of his short stories have been awarded prizes by the F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story contest (2017 and 2021). In his previous academic career, he was Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland specializing in modern American cultural history. As a historian, he published eleven American History books in modern American culture on subjects ranging from Twentieth Century World’s Fairs to the conflict between science and religion. One of his publications was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.