“SCRATCH” AHMM, MAY/JUN. ’21
Some people said Scratch brandished that crowbar. Others swore he held a sledge primed for swinging. That he had hair so blond it shone or was bald as a yard globe. I assured folks that, while cunning and shrewd, Scratch didn’t seem likely to apply his genius to raiding sheds. Didn’t matter. When it turned full dark, Lupe sent me over to Holt Porter’s, who swore on his mother’s grave that Scratch came around at sundown posing as a substitute FedEx driver. This was despite the FedEx email telling Holt his azalea food would arrive that night around dinner. “He expects I’m expecting that nitrogen,” Holt said. “No way I’m signing for it. It’s like inviting in a vampire.”
“NO ENTIENDO” LOWESTOFT CHRONICLE #45
Serpientes. Rafael, the resort guy, said, “las serpientes.” I knew zero Spanish besides greetings and single-digit numbers, but serpent was a word that slithered past language barriers. I hoped against hope Rafael stopped us on the drenched trail to stress his careful lengths devised to avoid snakes entirely. I was here at Punta Papagayo installing a hospitality-grade printing and scanning solution with in-room network capabilities. No way, no how did I sign on for serpiente-by-night Costa Rica.
“HANDED, ON A GOLD PLATE” MYSTERY WEEKLY MAGAZINE, NOV. ’20
Next, the procedures have everyone sign the cage maintenance log, Wade too. Okay, this isn’t a television gig exactly. It’s internet live stream. It’s where a star auditor ride gets launched intro flash by intro flash if the auditor is poised enough, debonair enough, the public assured enough. Between the genuine wool suit plus tailoring and premium grooming supplies, he’s in debt so deep that the credit card people are sending urgent notices. It won’t matter when he’s banking star coin.
Behind the story. Available at Mystery Weekly and for print and Kindle. Little Big Crimes calls it “Hilarious” in making it Best Mystery Story I Read This Week.
“ON LOAN FROM THE ARTIST” AHMM, NOV./DEC. ’20
So that was that. But it wasn’t, entirely. A distinct lack of customers left me all afternoon for spare glances at that sculpture. I couldn’t take so much charged quiet, or so much worrying if maybe that metal jumble loomed out closer. The whirls hinted at a method or meaning to it. A detailed inspection didn’t win me any insight, but I did find Sam’s initials peeking through rust on the bottom loop. Etched there above it was the word Bold.
“OVER BEFORE IT STARTED” AKASHIC BOOKS MONDAYS ARE MURDER SERIES
2020 Derringer Award Finalist
The coyote pups have got bold, come right beside the porch near sundown. Gives me someone to talk to, I suppose. Someone to help watch the road. Nights I sit out here, music on the radio, whiskey for sipping. Their mama has made a den of the corn crib, what’s left of it. More power to her. At least this scrap of land is getting some use.
“THE MONTPARNASSE MOON SHOT” LOWESTOFT CHRONICLE #41
“He wore black,” Pop always started off. It would be Saturday pinball in the garage, me on a pile of Air Force Times, Chuck the Labradoodle at my feet, Pop in that bomber’s jacket Mom buried him in and talking his usual bangbacks and flip traps. Pop went at his pinball hard, about dry-humping a machine until it broke or tilted. “Hairiest bastard on this green earth. Tall, wiry as fuel cable. It’s like he appeared out of the mist from the cemetery way, shoes clack-clack-clacking down Rue Daguerre.”
“LORD, SPARE THE BOTTOM FEEDERS” AHMM, MAR./APR. ’20
2020 Derringer Award Finalist
On the juke box a lady singer bemoaned autotuned slick about her godforsaken luck. Apropos, Vernon thought. Here was where his lawyering streak ended, a whimper drenched in well whiskey and techno twang. A tealess, tonicless world, its ice cubes laced with heretofore filtered-out poisons.
“MURDER ON THE FIRST NIGHT’S FEAST” MYSTERY WEEKLY, NOV. ’19
The impending charge against Vicomte Montvaste was murder of that scoundrel food critic, and it threatened to wreck the ’32 season. On our first night, no less. Now the Vicomte was in custody, that critic Bale found bobbing face-down in the Loire shallows. Bale. What should have launched a fortnight of the highest cuisine risked blazing out faster than the traditional cherries flambee.
“STAR OF ZOE” AHMM, MAR./APR. ’19
Aunt Judith blocking the viewing parlor and giving me a sermon hadn’t the least notion how much nerve I had, or how much I leaned on it up to this very hour. Two years now I’d kept the faith since Zoe had filed the papers and booted me from her life. It wasn’t right, getting shut out from her death, too.
“SNAP BAM BOOM” THE FORGE, SEP. ’18
This rogue wave of gators spoiled my beer buzz entirely, and it risked upsetting Brooke’s hormonal tightrope and concern for what she’d termed our nest time. In my head me and a generic beer and my possible boy-child were stuck on that jet ski dead-in-the-water at twilight, twelve-foot gators with eyes aglow circling us.
The Forge goes with me behind “Snap Bam Boom.”
“PROBLEMS AREN’T STOP SIGNS” MYSTERY WEEKLY, SEP. ’18
“Remember that go-getter Victoria?” these boys at Tate’s should’ve been saying. These boys should’ve backslapped each other, claim they’d had flirtations and hook-ups with me, the Gossamer girl struck gold. Dream on, boys. I would be living large in Pensacola, a condo with Spanish balconies and a walk-in closet for shoes and a bigger one for my jewelry and beads.
“BOOK OF HOURS” AHMM, JUL/AUG. ’18
Captured there on parchment, in a garden overrun with acanthus and ivy, a courtly knight gave the full on-bended-knee treatment to a fair and regal blonde. The slightest of beatific smiles crossed her face, and she held her hands clasped tight to her flowing gown, which meant she kept the dagger tucked up her sleeve.
“QUEEN AND COUNTRY” MYSTERY WEEKLY, MAR. ’18
I stroked my trademark stubble, the preeminent stubble in arachnology by any independent measure. The move flashed my chronograph–a thousand quid on New Bond Street, should Amalie ask–which rounded out the Nick Torthwaite-in-the-field look. Stubble, chronograph, safari vest and poplin slacks, I cut a dashing if stocky figure, the famed scientist after his quarry.
“LA TOMATINA” LOWESTOFT CHRONICLE #31
A gaze out at the sierras and olive groves hid my evil smile. Tomorrow I’d plop a fat tomato square on Elliott’s kisser, and he would plop one on mine, with a gusto that shattered his academic’s cool.
“LET IT BURN” AHMM, JUL/AUG. ’17
Chicken Wing Doultrie never would let on what he put in his hot paste, but with repeated exposure I’d gotten the gist: three parts lard, a jolt of garlic and some old-time religion’s worth of cayenne. I snatched another bite of his chicken, and the heat of better angels radiated through me. Wing’s Glaze of Glory, good for the soul. In a scouring way.
Behind the story. Available forever on the Nook, Magzter, iTunes and Amazon.
“HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE” MYSTERICAL-E, SPRING ’16
Talie held her tongue, sure International Happiness Month would burn up on its own as dumb ideas surely must, like worms did crossing a hot sidewalk. Then August could slow-broil on by, everyone buried under claim forms.
“THE CUMBERLAND PACKAGE” AHMM, MAY ’16 DERRINGER FINALIST
Heady on luck, Vernon daubed on the cologne and aimed high in seeking companionship: Farah-or-Felisha, hair lustrous in the argon light, husky voice cat-tongue coarse. Vernon ordered her another melontini, with Stoli. “Lawyer or judge?” was all she had said.
“WHAT SETTLES AFTER THE STARS” LOWESTOFT CHRONICLE #24
I coughed a brandied cough. I’d been particularly proud of that column, deeming some new champagne vintage as yet another French prostitute: a high-priced headache, and she and your cash were gone come morning.
“CRACK-UP AT WAYCROSS” MURDER UNDER THE OAKS
The simple math said making off with Old Mrs. Whitlock’s pecans a lunch cooler per theft would yield me one bushel a week, a ton in nine months, and a fifty-ton truckload by the time I cashed my first Social Security check. A genius, though, would boost fifty tons in one brilliant swoop.
Behind the story. Murder Under the Oaks won the 2016 Anthony Award for best story collection.
“FIRST RODEO” KINGS RIVER LIFE
Caleb shook me awake at sunrise. Didn’t matter the kid knew I’d be on a three-alarm hangover till noon. Didn’t matter it was already hot enough out the good hens of Crump might lay omelets. It was rodeo day, Caleb’s first one.
“TWO BAD HAMILTONS AND A HIRSUTE JACKSON” AHMM, MAY 2015
I had issues with that: one, he had delivered the sixth most unwanted come-on in my life; two, Brownsboro was a mile off his direct route to Mellwood; three, unlike Agent Wiggins, the threats to our nation’s full faith and credit didn’t clock out.
“DEATH OR TAXES” MYSTERICAL-E, JUL. ’14
As if summoned, out from the back sauntered an older guy in a blazer and cheap slacks. He was mid-fifties, weathered but fit, a measured calm about him as if he had stared down the whole catalogue of trouble.
“AIX TO GRIND” AHMM, SEP. ’14
1800 hours, blustery in Provence, an unseasonable cold. The wind carried snippets of carols from the Christmas market up to our rooftop. Sirens too, what with our bomb threat over by the Roman springs. I was like Santa Claus in reverse, taking presents with the help of my elf Gus, if a 250 pound bruiser in a ski mask could come off as an elf.
Little Big Crimes digs “Aix” here.
“SPARKS TO THE BEAR’S HIDE” MWA PRESENTS ICE COLD
A man in police uniform appeared with my coat over his arm. He had a callow face and crooked teeth. I extended my hand for him, but the callow man did not take it. Instead he tossed me the coat and turned on his heel. That I was to follow went unspoken, both the order and the threat.
Reader’s Digest, Best Short Stories To Read Right Now (Apr. ’14). Monsters and Critics weighs in here. And The Gazette here.
“UPRISINGS AT CAP D’ANTIBES” LOWESTOFT CHRONICLE #17
Across the harbor the cliffs of Cap d’Antibes bulged out into the aquamarine sea. Hailey and I were supposed to be up there, enjoying a tour of the villa, goggling at movie stars, and generally connecting through extreme savoir vivre. Instead she might undergo a communist brainwashing.
“WHORLING” THE ODDVILLE PRESS Vol. II #1
Whether he had fired that Glock or not, Marie understood this much: Colin Cathcart had the most stunning fingerprints.
“DARK DAYS FOR THE PROFESSOR” NOT SO FAST: AN ANTHOLOGY OF SOUTHERN FICTION AND HUMOR
Here Amanda came, young and raven-haired, with mocha skin and legs to steam off the Duck River. I buttoned my sport coat. On one hand, my banker was a knockout armed with shot glasses and a fifth of bourbon. On the other, this sort of encounter had direct bearing on why I was on my third wife, and unlike the others, Esperanza knew how to work cutting tools.
“FIRST OF A FINE SPECTACLE” PURE SLUSH: CATHERINE REFRACTED
We debated the matter. La Harpe considered helping Katerina along an honor, and I felt it a prison sentence to be shunted into a ghost-writer’s closet. In that sense I won the argument when imperial guardsmen hauled me away.
“THE CARCASSONNE DREAM” SWAMP BISCUITS AND TEA #4
Even rookie husbands knew to keep our mouths shut while amassing evidence. I said nothing when the hotel had no pastry at breakfast. I said nothing when out in the blustering wind we watched bakers in aprons hurry toward their cars and all walks of life stop each other to murmur and point.
“THE TRANSCENDENCE OF PI” ON THE PREMISES #19, 1st Place
She was sleeping with him of course, but in a pro forma sort of way, as if because nothing good was on television. He suspected other men shared her favors. The absurdity of it drove him wild. Jon Applewhit, Nobel winner and definitive word on pi, was to Izaka not worth minimal effort put into their fling.
“LA UPSELL” LOWESTOFT CHRONICLE #11
He pushed my euro back at me. “Purchase now and I give you voucher for unlimited cocktails. There are good people in Club Première Vue, Monsieur. Beautiful people.” He tacked on a smile with a twist. “Perhaps you make a new friend.”
“THE FOOD ACQUISITION BREAKDOWN” ONE TITLE MAGAZINE #1
She modeled her shopping pattern after crime scene techs, working each aisle end-to-end in a grid, left and right, up and down, keeping a sharp eye because the food companies always screwed around with shelf position. Then came the climax–checkout, and its seductive melody of beeps.