Thursday, May 27, 2021

Cutie Pie Murders blog post #499

Book Cover Courtesy of Dreamspinner Press

 Time for more of the Cutie Pie Murders. The last time we looked at the novel, we were in Chapter 8 while BJ and Paul interviewed the manager of the upscale apartment house where BJ’s client’s son, a youngster named Mateo Zapata was murdered. Now they’ve gone up to the fourth floor to interview Wally and Willow, an openly gay couple living opposite the murder apartment last leased to a Burton Neville, who seems to have disappeared. Enjoy.




When Wally opened the door, the taller Willow hovering over his shoulder, I was struck by how cheerful and contented the two seemed to be. Here were a couple of guys not the least intimidated by the larger straight world hovering outside their door. They invited us in with broad, welcoming smiles. Wally ushered us to chairs while Willow rushed about pouring tea. All of five minutes elapsed before we were seated facing one another. Finally I was able to start asking questions.

“Any word from Burton Neville?”

Willow substituted a frown for a smile. “Nooo! And I’m beginning to worry. Especially since you asked about him.”

“It’s not like him to ignore old friends,” Wally said. “I know he’d be busy getting settled in a new job and a new home, but six months? We’ll give him the dickens when he finally remembers us. And we’ll let you know too.”

“Thanks.” I took out photos of the five victims and spread them on the coffee table between us. “Do you know any of these men?”

Willow’s eyes widened as he scanned the pictures. “No, but I’d sure like to. Can you introduce us?”

Wally favored his partner with a cocked eyebrow before turning back to the snaps. “Who are they?”

“Five murdered young men.”

Willow flapped a hand over his eyes. “Oh heavens! Poor babies. Who’d do such a horrible thing to beautiful boys like these?”

I tapped Zapata’s photo. “This one died right across the hall.”

“He’s the one murdered in Burton’s apartment?” Wally’s voice came out in sort of a gasp. “Lord, I hope I wasn’t sitting over here while that poor boy was dying across the hall.”

“It most likely happened during the day,” I said, without certain knowledge but to ease his mind. “You were probably at work.”

His frown turned into a weak smile. “Doesn’t change the poor boy’s suffering, does it?”

“No, but you won’t go around thinking that if you’d heard someone in the hallway you might have done something to help the victim.”

“Victim,” Willow said. “It sounds so… so clinical when you hear it on those television shows”—he gave a visible shiver—“but when it’s right across the hall….” He left the thought unfinished and turned away to stare out the window down on East Central traffic. “I wish I had known him. Said a kind word to him.”

Willow—and to a lesser extent, Wally—wore their emotions on their sleeves. Yet the moment seemed overdone. These two lived across the hall from the murder scene. Was it possible they had a key to Neville’s old apartment? Possible and plausible. The couple moved up on my list of suspects. I’d ask Charlie to check and see if either or both had been missing from work on the day Matt Zapata died.

I cleared my throat. “The last time we talked, you mentioned one of Burton Neville’s houseguests was a fellow named Jules. When I asked when you saw this Jules last, you said something like ‘ages.’ Can you be more specific? A week? A month?”

Willow turned from the window. “Oh heavens no. It was years ago.”

“Let me understand. Neville only lived at this address for six months or so.”

Wally took over the explanation. “Jules came around while we all lived over on Montgomery. Simply eons ago.”

“Like in 2000, maybe?”

“Possibly. We moved in the Montgomery complex in 1999, and Burton was already there. So, yes, that’s about the right time frame.”

“And you don’t recall Jules’s last name?” I pressed.

“He was just beautiful Jules to Wally and me,” Willow said. “And I do mean beautiful. Despite having Wally all to myself, I couldn’t help but be a little jealous of Burton and Jules.” He laid a hand on Wally’s arm. “Sorry, sweetheart.”

Wally patted the hand. “Don’t be. I would have jumped his bones in a minute and confessed it later.”

“You don’t happen to have any pictures of Burton and Jules, do you?” Paul asked.

“No, but I wish we did. Come to think of it, we don’t even have one of Burton. Strange, isn’t it? Known him for years, and no snapshots.” Willow waved a hand in the air. “Guess it proves we’re not shutterbugs. Don’t even own a camera.”

“Sure we do,” Wally said. “On our phones.”

I stepped in before it became one of those parry and riposte sessions they seemed to engage in. “Does the name McClintock mean anything to you?”

Blank stares before both men shook their heads.

I tried again. “Jules McClintock.”

Willow moued his lips. “You know, that sounds right. Jules McClintock. I know it was ‘Mac’ something.”

Bingo. It was the Jules I remembered from the U. But what did it mean other than proving once again Albuquerque is an overgrown town where you run into people you know all over the place? Jules McClintock was thirty or so now… providing he survived his illness. Even so, I needed to run him down and mine his memory.

“Do you fellows have a key for 4201?” I asked.

“We did,” Wally said. “Not a key, of course, but a card. The locks are electronic.”

I recalled Hector Valdez had mentioned a key card when we questioned the maintenance man the other day. Now it made sense.

“The keyholes are a diversionary tactic,” Wally went on. “You know, so would-be robbers waste their time trying to pick a lock. Nice touch, don’t you think? It fooled you, and you’re a professional detective.”

I smiled. “That it did. This card, what happened to it?”

“We gave it back to Burton before he left. And he returned ours. We shared cards in case of emergencies.”

“You’re certain you returned the card?” I pressed.

“Oh yes. Handing over the card was virtually the last thing we did before Burton left. I remember it clearly. We were all bawling like babies. I can show you the card to our apartment he returned if it would help.”

“That won’t be necessary.” I hauled out Pierson’s photo. “What about this man? Was he one of Neville’s guests?”

Willow grabbed the picture while Wally studied it over his partner’s shoulder. Willow frowned. “Interesting. Not in the same class as those other boys, but it’s a good face. Nice planes and good eyes. Some people don’t like eyeglasses, but I think they lend character to a face. Intelligence.”

His scrutiny wasn’t going the direction I wanted. I hoped Wally didn’t….

“Oh, yes. Makes a person seem more intense. More sophisticated. Definitely—”

I cut Wally off. “Do you recognize the man?”

“No. Never seen him before to the best of my knowledge,” Wally said.



Could two fey, gay guys manually strangle a handsome, healthy young man to death? Probably not, but on the other hand, a debilitating drug had been found in Mateo’s bloodstream.


Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!


A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:         


My personal links:




Twitter: @dontravis3


See you next Thursday.




New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

JOE, Part 2 of 2 Parts blog post #498

How did you like the first part of Corporal Jozef Zuzluski’s story? Lippy bastard, isn’t he?



Saturday, Lieutenant Saunders got up before Joe, hit the shower, threw a casual invitation to breakfast, and headed out the door when Joe declined. Joe didn’t think he’d drunk that much Friday night at Morry’s, but his gut didn’t feel accepting of bacon and eggs or much of anything else. Nonetheless, after the door closed on the lieutenant, Joe crawled out of bed and let the shower revive him a little. He was shaving with a bath towel snugged around his waist when Saunders appeared in the open bathroom door.

“Rough night?” the lieutenant asked.

Joe wiped off the last of his shaving cream. “Didn’t think so but—” He shrugged his shoulders, aware of the other man’s eyes sweeping his naked torso. “What’s on the agenda today, sir?”

“Doing what the Army does best. Hurry up and wait.”

Joe examined his superior critically. The yellow polo shirt the lieutenant wore hugged a good torso. Navy blue slacks outlined slim hips and a nice crotch. He almost became dizzy as he realized he didn’t know what he wanted to happen next. He’d shot his mouth off to the lieutenant the other day without knowing why. Tired of the work details, maybe. Or was it something deeper.”

“Penny for your thoughts, corporal.”

Joe shrugged again. “Just wondering what happens next.”

Saunder’s lips curled into a tight smile. “Up to you. You can drop that towel. Or you can get dressed and go to the Crocker Art Museum with me. Or… there’s always Morry’s.”

“And if I decide to drop the towel?”

“Then we’re gonna violate a whole bunch of United States military regulations.”

“That oughta be worth it all by itself.”

“You like violating norms?”

“Live for it, sir.”

“Go on. Your choice.”

Joe hesitated a minute before dislodging the towel and letting it drop to the floor.

Saunders nodded. “Impressive. Not many men are uniformly handsome. You know, from top to bottom, but you seem to be one of the them.”

Feeling like a bull on display in the auction ring, Joe said the only thing he could think of. “Thank you, sir.” So help him, he felt a tingling in his guts, and his manhood began to stir.

Saunder’s features went stern. “I’d appreciate it, corporal, if you didn’t get a hard-on around me.”

The coup-de-gras delivered, the lieutenant turned and walked out of the hotel room. Joe stood before the mirror, his face flushed, his guts crawling with shame.



Joe spent a good part of the day in Morry’s, but his obvious mood kept most of the patrons at bay. A few guys and gals he’d chatted with the night before kept their distance. Understandable. He tried to clean up his mood, but the damage was done. Midafternoon, he returned to the hotel room and flopped down on his bed. Maybe he was more looped than he thought because a little rocket ship buzzed around in his head. Crap, why had the lieutenant humiliated him like that?

That’s an easy one, Zazulski. To get even. Bring him down. Revenge. That got him to thinking. Why had he done almost the same thing to Saunders last month? That one wasn’t so easy. Maybe it just came down to putting the cocky shavetail in his place. Nah, that didn’t compute. Joe thought long and hard, and just before he dropped off to sleep, he still hadn’t come up with the solution, except that the good-looking officer got under his skin. Why?

The key in the lock brought him awake. He opened his eyes in time to see Saunders enter the room. The lieutenant paused, looking surprised.

“Thought you’d be at Morry’s.”

“Was. But it wasn’t doing the job.”

Saunders held up his cell phone. “Got a phone call while I was at the Crocker. The committee finished their work early, and I picked up the papers already.” He laid a thick envelope on the desk before the only window in the place.

“So mission accomplished?”


Joe sat up on the side of the bed. “We can head back to base?”

“Can. But I thought we’d stay over tonight and leave sometime tomorrow.”


“Look, Joe. I’m sorry about that stunt this morning. I just….”

“You just wanted some payback.”

The officer grinned. “Yeah. Guess I’m human after all.” Saunders sat on the edge of his bed facing Joe. “Okay, that explains my actions. But why did you say the same thing to me a couple of weeks ago?”

Joe shrugged. “Lipping off, I guess.”

Saunders shook his head. “Uh-uh. You don’t get off that easy. Come on, give.”

“No excuse, sir.”

“None of that. There was a reason. Now give.”

Joe stared into the man’s blue eyes. “I…. Uh, I was….”

“Jealous,” the lieutenant finished for him.

Joe blinked. “Yeah. I guess that was it. Sorry if—”

“Joe, I’m going into the bath to take a leak. When I come out, I want you in the same condition as when I left you this morning.


“You heard me.”

With that, Saunders got up and headed for the bathroom. As soon as the door closed behind him, Joe jumped up.

“Son of a bitch!”

He almost tore buttons from his favorite shirt getting out of it.



Personally, I think the two of them were merely jockeying for position. And I think maybe the lieutenant got the better of Joe. What do you think happened when Saunders came out of the bathroom? Can you play that scene in your head? Who was top? Who was bottom? Tell me what you think.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.



 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

JOE, Part 1 of 2 Parts blog post #497

Photo Courtesy of 

Lot of hits on my short story last week, but no comments. Come on, I’ll bet some of you have run into a situation such as in “Gwendolyn.” Fess up.

 This week, we’ll try a two-parter. Needs no introduction, so let’s get to it.



“What did you say, Corporal?”

Jozef Zazluski, at rigid attention, stared into the eyes of the second lieutenant standing directly in front of him. He was a good-looking dude, but Joe could tell the man was a cold fish. Which made his next words sound strange. “I said I’d appreciate it, sir, if you didn’t get a hard-on while talking to me.”

Lieutenant Saunders’s face grew mottled. “What?”

“Either you’re unusually endowed, sir, or—”

“That’s enough. Are you looking for disciplinary action?”

“Well, sir, seems like that’s what I’m calling for. A little self-discipline would be welcome, especially when I’m around.”

The lieutenant went full blood-red. “Dismissed. Now get out of my sight.”

“What about my—”

“I said outa here, Corporal. Now!”

Joe threw a lazy salute and broke for the door, barely able to hide a grin. The butter bar had showed up about a month ago, and since that time, Corporal Jozef P. Zazluski—namely him—had pulled more special duty than he had in the last six months. And they all involved doing something for the new platoon commander. It was getting tiresome. For some unknown reason, he was either on the lieutenant’s shit list or his hit list. Either way, Joe figured he might as well bring it to a head. If it was the former, maybe he could piss the CO off enough to transfer him out. If it was the latter, he’d cut to the chase instead of pussyfooting around for another six months.

Joe knew he was an attractive man. Enough women—and a few guys—had made that clear. Six feet, flat-bellied and broad shouldered, he had dark Slavic eyes, a good, strong Irish chin, and dark wavy hair that was hard to tame. He’d learned early on that his looks attracted the women, but he’d been in boot camp at El Paso before he learned they drew some men too. He knew the delights of the distaff side, but he was a year into his enlistment on a three-day pass to Monterrey with a buddy before learning other side provided its moments, as well. And if he hadn’t been loosey-goosey from the booze, he’d have never learned that. Ah well, to hell with the lieutenant.


He was sick of training recruits by the time Friday rolled around. He could hardly wait until they delivered the platoon back to the barracks. He had the weekend off.

At midmorning smoke break, his sergeant bellowed for him.

“Yo, Sarge.”

“Go pack a bag—Class A’s, enough for two nights—and report to company headquarters. Lieutenant Saunders needs a driver.”

“Aw, Sarge. I’ve got the weekend off.”

“Tough. The shavetail asked for you by name and rank—forgot the serial number, I guess.” The noncom laughed at his own humor.

Half an hour later, Jo spotted the lieutenant standing beside the newly washed Humvee he’d apparently requisitioned for the trip. As soon as he spotted Joe, the officer glanced at his watch before crawling in the front passenger’s seat of the vehicle.

Joe threw his bag in the back and got behind the wheel. “What’s up, sir?”

“Gotta go up to Sacramento. Have to deliver some papers to some senator’s office.”

“Papers to a state senator? And we gotta hand-deliver them?”

The lieutenant’s blue eyes flashed. “Ours not to reason why, Corporal. Besides, this a US senator’s office. She has an office in Sacramento.”

“So we’ll be back tomorrow night?”

“No. The papers are for some meeting. Have to wait and haul back an official reply. Won’t get that until Monday. Don’t worry about your recruits.” Saunders handed him a sheet of paper. “You’re on TDY. Somebody else will play nursemaid.”

Joe threw the vehicle into gear and fed the engine gas. Didn’t sound kosher. What was the baby-faced officer up to?

The trip didn’t take that long, but maneuvering city traffic to reach the senator’s office did. He found a spot in the building’s parking lot.

“Wait here,” Saunders ordered. “I’ll go find the right office and deliver the papers. I don’t have any idea how long I’ll be gone.”

“Not long, I don’t expect,” Joe said. “They’ll be closed by now.”

“Waiting for us.” The tone was clipped, but at least it was talk. They hadn’t said two words on the drive up.

Joe was sacked out in the driver’s seat when Saunders returned two hours later. The lieutenant got in and directed him to a nearby hotel. Twenty minutes later, they opened the door to a large, airy room with two queen-sized beds. Bunking together? Now it really sounded fishy.

The lieutenant selected the bed closest to the door, leaving the other one for Joe. After stowing their things, the lieutenant faced him.

“I’m gonna go grab a bite to eat. You wanna join me?”

Maybe the butter bar would pick up the check. Jo shrugged. “Sure, why not.”

Joe knew he’d made the right decision when the waiter delivered a New York cut with all the trimmings. Saunders had a seafood plate. Talk was desultory, mostly about how Joe thought the new class of recruits were shaping up. About the meeting they’d delivered papers for, the officer claimed to know nothing. As they pushed away their plates, Joe was gratified to see Saunders accept the check. After he studied the tab and pulled out his billfold, the officer looked at him.

“Okay, you’re off duty. I have to hold myself available in case the senator has a question, but otherwise, we’re free. I’m to pick up the papers Monday morning at eleven. There’s a pretty good bar called Morry’s out the door to your left about a block. Uh, don’t bring back any unexpected company.”

“How come you know about bars here?”

“I grew up in Sacramento. I know the area pretty well. You should probably be at the hotel by noon. Don’t know if we’ll get a call from the senator’s aide or not, but better safe than sorry.”

“You’re not going to the bar?

“Nope. Going to the room. I have some calls to make. Then I’m turning in. Don’t make a racket when you come in.”

“No, sir.”

Morry’s was a pleasant place, a little upscale from what Joe was accustomed to, but all right. There were a couple of women available for a chat, but his heart wasn’t into playing games. It took him half the evening to figure out why. What was Saunders up to? The guy had asked for Joe by name, but just cut him loose as soon as the official stuff was over. Well before his usual time and only halfway to his expected high, Jo bailed and headed for the hotel.

The lights were off when he entered the room, but Saunders was there, lying on his side in bed, sleeping. Or pretending to sleep. What the hell? It didn’t make sense that he was on the lieutenant’s shit list. The guy wouldn’t have sprung for a pricey steak in a posh hotel. And if Joe was on the “hit” list, the guy was sure playing it cool.  Fuck it. He’d just clean up, go to bed, and get a good night’s sleep.

As he stood in the shower and relaxed under the warm spray, Joe halfway expected the bathroom door to open. But it hadn’t by the time he was dried off. Saunders still lay sill and soundless in his fancy bunk. Joe pulled on a fresh pair of shorts and slid between the covers of his own bed. But sleep refused to come. He drifted between wakefulness and slumber for half the night expecting … expecting what? Hell, that was the problem. He didn’t know.


Indeed, what is the baby-faced, butter bar officer up to? I think he’s managing to get under Joe’s skin, don’t you.

 We’ll find out next week.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.



 New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

GWENDOLYN blog post #496

 Photo Courtesy of

Good reaction to Don Morgan’s look at his novel MIASMA last week. I’m jealous… he got a lot of hits.

 This week, I thought I’d give you a little short fiction piece. I say fiction, but I’ll bet some of you have lived it. Read on.



Her hair, a bird’s nest of spun gold—untamed yet never messy—girdled a face as heart-shaped as the locket at her breast. Immense green eyes casually observing the world held a hint of mischief. Pert breasts, not huge but adequate. Hips not as broad as some but nicely rounded, and exquisite legs that went on forever.

Gwendolyn was her name, but she became Golden Gwendolyn when I met her in my neighborhood bar. Not a regular. She just happened to drop in, she claimed when I struck up a conversation.

“So did I,” I lied.

“Kismet,” she replied.

I saw her a couple of times after that and bought us both drinks, although she always called it quits after two. Of course, two Long Island Iced Teas were enough for most people. Vodka, gin, rum, tequila, and triple sec was a potent combination.

Then we progressed to coffee on a couple of afternoons. Seems strange that moving from a bar to a coffee house is progress, but the afternoon meetings were deliberate; the evening encounters appeared accidental. But tonight was our first arranged date. I could hardly wait for the boring Friday workday to pass. One of my mom’s favorite expressions was, “Satan, get thee behind me.” Now all I wanted was for the day to get behind me so I could be Satan.

When she stepped out of the apartment house where I picked her up that evening, she was so dazzling, my knees went weak. Taking her gloved hand, I led her to the car. She was dynamite—no, way past that, more like pure nitroglycerin—in a glittering blue and black shaded sheath that hugged her body like a passionate lover. Well, I had news for that dress. It was going to be lying on my bedroom floor before the evening was over. Sweat broke out on my brow at the thought.

As I handed her into the passenger’s seat, she spoke in a low, throaty contralto. “Thank you, Connie. You’re quite the gentleman.”

Normally I’d go on a tear when anyone called me Connie. My name was Conrad, and use of the familiar got my dander up. Not with Gwendolyn. She could call me anything she wanted. I, of course, would never consider calling her Gwen or Gwinnie. She was Gwendolyn… period.

The place I’d chosen for dinner ate up a good bit of my food budget for the month, but this was an all-out, damn-the-torpedoes event! Score time with the most luscious dish I’d laid eyes on in eons. I wasn’t very hungry, but I didn’t want to be so pedestrian as to ask for a carry-out box. She ate daintily as she carried on a witty conversation, but managed to consume it all. This gal was perfect… except, maybe, her hands. They weren’t as long and slender as I imagined they should be. In fact, they were rather broad and blunt. But if that was her major flaw, I could live with it.

I about melted from the inside out when she said yes to a drink in my apartment after dinner. As I killed the car engine in the dimly lighted parking lot at my apartment house, I figured to make my intentions clear before going upstairs. I placed my hand behind her head and pulled her forward for a kiss. A deep, sweet, peppery kiss. And sweet it was. My hands wandered down her smooth back and circled to caress those pert breasts. She wore a padded bra, or so it felt beneath my squeezing fingers, so her bosom must be smaller than imagined. So what? If I could keep looking into those enchanting eyes, nothing else would matter.

My hands moved down to her belly, but she wouldn’t permit me in her groin. That was okay, the point was made.

I saw her out of the car and strolled with my arm about her shoulders into the building and up one flight of stairs. As we entered the apartment, she left her purse on the entry table after rescuing a stick of lip gloss, and followed my directions to the bath. Not wanting to rush things too much, I limited my “getting comfortable” to shrugging out of my sports jacket and stripping off my tie.

Intercepting Gwendolyn as she came out of the bathroom, I pulled her to me and sat on the side of the bed. She didn’t resist, so I sprawled across the mattress, bringing her with me. The kiss was long and sweet. Then I rolled atop her. My libido was raging now, and there could be no mistaking my aim. I ground my groin into hers and moved in for a final kiss before making the move. As my lips touched hers, I brushed her cheek with a hand. What the hell! Raspy? I moved back and noticed a slight lump in her throat. I felt my eyes go wide. This gal was a dude!

I rose to my elbows and started to shout my indignation. But those eyes. I couldn’t get enough of those eyes.

I licked my lips and muttered, “Oh, what the heck!”

She—he smiled broadly as I moved down to those intriguing lips.



Well, what about it? Anyone get caught in a situation like this? If so, how did you react? I’d be interested in knowing.

 Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it!

 A link to The Cutie-Pie Murders:

 My personal links:



Twitter: @dontravis3

 See you next Thursday.



New Posts every Thursday morning at 6:00 a.m. US Mountain time.

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