We’re so pleased to welcome author Jon Michaelsen today, with an exclusive excerpt from the recently re-released, Pretty Boy Dead.
About the Book
A murdered male stripper. A missing go-go dancer. A city councilman on the hook. Can Atlanta homicide detective Sergeant Kendall Parker solve the heinous crime and remain safely behind the closet door?
When the body of a young man is found in a popular midtown park, police and local media are quick to pin the brutal killing on a homeless gay kid with AIDS. But homicide detective Sgt. Kendall Parker isn’t so convinced, even when the suspect is accused of assaulting another police detective with a deadly weapon.
City leaders want the murder solved yesterday and jump at the chance to pin the crime on the drug-craving teen. It’s an election year, so remaining in office is their top priority, even at the sacrifice of the young man. Sgt. Parker isn’t so persuaded and is determined to prove Hopper’s innocence, despite the protest of his colleagues, and threatening the deep secret Parker has carefully hidden from his comrades for years.
Parker migrated his way through the mezzanine level of the spectacular showplace. Men of varying ages shuffled through the club like cattle, pushing and shoving in a sea of sweaty, scantily clad bodies, most engaged in conversations in tight clusters throughout the room. Shirtless bartenders with bulging biceps served up cocktails and popped beer caps for guys five-deep in line around the bar. Dancers in G-strings connected to snatches of cloth danced on the elevated tabletops scattered around.
A room spilled out onto a large balcony with its own bar, framed by twin staircases on either side overlooking a dance floor the size of a basketball court. Smoke poured from the ceiling, obscuring Parker’s view, as did colored lights that spun from multiple rising and falling chrome lattices suspended overhead. Music pulsated from speakers mounted throughout the space as more men jammed onto the dance floor, thrusting to Rihanna’s latest mega-hit, bare chest to bare chest. The smell of musk and sweat permeated the room.
Parker descended the stairs and shoved past frenzied dancers along the wall toward a bar nestled in the corner, its steel counter illuminated by neon sculptures of the male torso. He ordered scotch on the rocks. At first glance, the bartender with the close-cropped peroxide blond hair seemed to recognize him. The man stood rigid, arching his shoulders back and drying his hands on a bar cloth. He looked Parker up and down as he poured the scotch.
Parker turned and watched as a thrust of dry ice fog engulfed the dancers. He spotted amber vials of liquid shoved up to their noses, heads thrown back with their eyes closed. The men danced close together, bodies pressing tightly and moving in rhythm. A young, pierced, and tattooed couple clung to each other kissing, oblivious to the world around them.
“The name’s Jake.” Parker heard over his shoulder. He took a plastic cup filled with scotch and ice from the bartender, who stared at him with ice blue eyes. “It’s on me.”
“Thanks,” Parker said with a smile. “Did you know Jason North? He was a dancer here.”
The bartender hesitated before speaking, his eyes darting around the room before leaning in closer. “Who didn’t know Jason?” he replied with a harsh tone. “The guy was a fucking jerk.”
Not the sentiment Parker expected to hear. “You two didn’t get along?”
The man scowled. “Jason was a prick, a snot-nosed rich kid who shouldn’t have been dancing here in the first place. He didn’t need the money, man, not like the rest of us. Most of these guys, the dancers here, couldn’t take his attitude.”
Parker sipped his cocktail as Jake filled requests yelled at him by a shirtless, muscled waiter who plopped a drink tray on the counter. When the waiter took off, Parker said, “I came away with the impression Jason was one of the most popular attractions.”
Jake rolled his eyes. “The customers couldn’t get enough of the guy. That’s why the other dancers couldn’t stand him. Most resented his talent, if that’s what you’d call it. He crowded their space, man. If a pedestal some dude was dancing on had a larger crowd, Jason butted in. He landed the prime shifts, the best dancing spots and worked on his own terms. None of the other guys received the same treatment, that’s for sure.”
“You sound angry.” Parker lit a cigarette and blew the smoke out the side of his mouth. “Holding a grudge?”
“Yeah, something like that.” Jake glanced around the room. “Look man, Anthony takes care of his boys, all right? He doesn’t give shit about the rest of us.”
“You’re saying the owner and Jason were sticking it to each other?”
Jake glanced up to a figure peering down from the upper balcony. “I’ve said enough. Fuck, I’ll probably get fired for talking to you.” He rushed off to attend to other customers.
Parker looked up in time to see a tall, sharply dressed figure withdraw from the railing into the shadows of the crowd. From photos he’d seen in the paper, he recognized the club owner, Anthony Galloti, profligate nephew to one of the most lethal crime families in Chicago. He also knew that Special Investigations had tried and failed to link Galloti to racketeering indictments including prostitution, money laundering, police corruption, loan sharking, and credit card fraud, to name a few.
A meaty hand landed on Parker’s shoulder.
“I’ve talked to a few of the bartenders,” Perelli shouted, leaning near his partner’s ear. He stuck a thumb over his shoulder as Parker turned. “None….good…say…”
Unable to understand, he motioned for them to move up the stairs and out into the main room. “What were you saying?” he asked, ignoring the ringing echo in his ears.
“No luck so far. I’ve talked to several employees, but nothing.” Perelli tipped his cup on end, licking the remnants of alcohol from the corners of his mouth. “I’m getting another. Want one?”
“Take it easy on the alcohol, Perelli.”
Perelli waved him off and shot across the carpeted floor, returning moments later with a fresh drink. “Cops carry clout in these places,” he said. “No waiting in line either.” The threat to his masculinity had abated with a few drinks. So, it seemed, had his cold shoulder to Parker. “Hell, this place ain’t so bad,” he sneered. “Despite all the fucking fags.”
Parker ignored his partner’s comment, distracted by the movement of a patron across the room. The young man was edging toward the emergency exit and kept an eye peeled in their direction.
“What’s up, partner?”
“I’m not sure yet,” said Parker. “You see the guy over there in the red tank?” Perelli followed Parker’s stare and nodded. “Since we’ve been standing here, he’s slipped through the crowd, not a word to anyone, but kept watching us. Looks like he’s headed for that exit.”
“I’d say he’s about to bolt.” Perelli tossed his cup into a nearby trash bin and leaned in close to Parker’s ear. “I’ll head out front and swing around,” he said. “He makes a run for it, I’ll be there.”
Parker studied the character over his partner’s shoulder. “Keep it cool, Perelli,” he said. “If the dude makes a break for it, detain him and that’s all. It’s probably nothing, but I want to be sure. And watch your back.”
Perelli disappeared through the squash of bodies. Parker sipped his cocktail, peering over the rim of the plastic cup as he watched the man’s eyes springboard around the room. Parker spotted Callahan and two goons moving in fast as the man rushed to make a break for it. A hand slapped onto Parker’s arm about the time he started to advance. Calvin Slade.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Parker asked.
The reporter smirked. Parker turned back in time to see the red shirt had moved closer to the emergency exit. A cluster of chatty men blocked his view as Slade tugged his arm again.
“You’re working the park homicide, aren’t you? Why else would you be here?” Slade tried to follow Parker’s line of sight across the room. “I know the victim worked here as a dancer, a mighty popular one, I might add.”
“What’s your point?” Parker turned away and craned his neck over the crowd in front of him. He spotted the tousled blond hair of the young man within inches of freedom. “Some other time,” he said.
All eyes were on Parker as he shoved and elbowed his way through the crowd, stepping on a few toes along the way. He heard some choice words and threats in his wake. Patrons dashed out of the way and protected their drinks.
The guy threw open the emergency door and set off the alarm. Someone nearby screamed and people scattered in the opposite direction. Callahan and his men retreated as Parker reached the exit, slammed through the door and leaped into the alleyway beside the club.
Pitch black. Retrieving his gun with his right hand, he clasped the butt of the weapon with his left and waited wide-eyed for his pupils to adjust. Where was Perelli? Brooks? The smell of sewage and stale beer hung in the night air. Behind him, the heavy door shut.
An eerie silence invaded the area.
Parker stood in total darkness, his weapon aimed, and safety released. His heart pumped like a jackhammer as he scanned the area. He ventured forward, placing one foot carefully before the next in slow, measured steps. The grit on the asphalt crunched beneath his rubber soles and echoed in his ears.
The exit door had dumped him into the narrow alleyway accessed by main roads at either end of the Metroplex. A long, dark vehicle facing the opposite direction hugged the cinderblock wall of the building, exhaust from its tailpipe drifting skyward from an idling engine. The tinted windows were slick with raindrops, and the headlights off. Parker glanced to the left. A pile of empty liquor boxes seemed to be the only hiding place, because the guy didn’t have enough time to get to Juniper Street.
Where the fuck’s Perelli?
Seconds ticked away in the quiet alley. Parker edged forward to inspect the pile of rubbish, poking at the refuse with the barrel of his gun. Nothing. Moving around to the other side, he nudged at several lower boxes with his toe. No movement. His stomach constricted and his legs stiffened with anticipation. Perspiration slid down his temples, but he dared not wipe the sweat away. Two minutes had passed since his burst through the door and still nothing stirred.
Every cop dreaded such a situation, slow dancing in the shadows alone with a robber, a thief…a killer. Fear had a way of clutching the heart and soul, controlling all logic. He knew from experience the anxiety coursing through his veins was enough to riddle a man’s body stiff and lock his joints, even for tough cops like him. It had a mind of its own…fear, dominating the human psyche, causing one to act out of desperation, to strike when provoked. Fear.
Fear of the unknown or fear of death?
Parker backed away from the boxes, his eyes glued to the pile of cardboard, his breathing more rapid and his heartbeat echoing in his ears. Easy, he coaxed himself. Wait him out. He swung his arms slowly to the right, following the point just above the barrel of his weapon. Steady…
A cat screamed in the distance, sending chills up Parker’s spine. He stepped into something cold and wet, the mess oozing into his shoe as a pungent odor hit his nose. A door in the wall next to the parked vehicle burst open and out stepped a short figure in a suit, bathed in the interior light when the car door opened. He heard a faint step, saw a flash of red clothing before something heavy struck against the back of his head.
Pain shot through his neck and shoulders. He stumbled forward off balance, and managed to fire a single shot into the brick wall before losing his grip on the gun. A broken bottle, lead pipe, splintered board—whatever the hell it was—held by a shadowed hand cracked hard across Parker’s skull again. He tumbled to the wet pavement in time to see confusion flicker across the face of the suited man ducking into the backseat of the sedan. The vehicle’s engine revved, and its tires squealed as it raced away. Fuck!
The attacker dropped its weapon and sprinted in the opposite direction. Parker got to his knees and fumbled around for his gun. He stood, staggered a second, and took off after the attacker in a running stumble. The pressure and pain at the base of his head pulsated as he ran. Warm blood flowed from above his right ear, filling his ear canal and running down his jaw and neck.
The suspect had darted around the building onto Juniper. Parker neared the corner wall and halted, putting his back against the brick wall to avoid another attack. He sucked in a deep breath and threw his entire weight around the corner with his pistol drawn. In the distance, two figures scuffled in the middle of the road, their struggle illuminated by a nearby street lamp.
About the Author
I am a writer of mystery, suspense/thriller and speculative fiction whose main characters are gay. While this doesn’t define or limit my characters, it does provide excellent opportunities for exciting plots with a twist. Many diverse writers have influenced my style of writing over the years; among them David Baldacci, John Grisham and Michael Crichton to groundbreaking novelists Patricia Nell Warren, Michael Nava and Felice Picano. Other more current gay mystery writers who influence my writing are Greg Herren, David Lennon and John Morgan Wilson.
My first full-length novel, Pretty Boy Dead, the debut mystery in a series set in Atlanta featuring closeted Homicide Detective, Sgt. Kendall Parker, was a finalist for a the 2014 Lambda Literary Award in Gay Mystery. My erotic thriller novella, Switch Hitter (co-written with Alex Morgan) was also released by Wilde City Press in 2013. I’ve just released a gay mystery/thriller short novel, Prince of the Sea. I am currently working on the next Kendall Parker mystery.
A southern Georgia native, I live in Atlanta with my husband of 30 years and four monstrous terriers!