|Title||Geography of Murder|
|Release Date||June 2009|
|Cover Artist||Deana C. Jamroz|
|Available At:||MLR Bookstore|
|All Romance Ebooks (ebook)|
Jason Zachary finds himself with a map straight into a murder rap when he runs afoul of Santa Barbara detective Alexander Spider, charged with the murder of a man he’s never met.
I threw my arms over my face to block out the brilliant light that flooded my eyes. I yelped at the sharp burst of pain it brought on and sat up in bed.
“What the fuck-?”
Under me the bed rocked and rolled. Outside I could hear the high-pitched wail of a gull scream and the gentle, slap of water against fiberglass hull. I was on a boat. Whose? I rolled over to escape the relentless light and bumped up against warm flesh. Oh shit, what had I done this time? Another black out? My last memory was leaving the Vault near midnight. I could have sworn I was alone. Wait – hadn’t some cute, hunky blond guy waylaid me in the parking lot? The guy beside me was definitely not the blond from last night.
I blinked and stared into his slack face, searching for a clue as to who he was and why I was in bed with him.
I blinked again. I tried to place the face. He was old. At least sixty. Wrinkled face. White mat of chest hair over a flabby paunch, tiny shrunken cock. Faded tats up and down his skinny chest and arms. A leather dog collar. Black leather harness strapped to his thin chest and nothing else. Not the type I usually slept with. Not the type I ever slept with. What would ever possess me to let a loser like this fuck me? I don’t think anyone had that much money.
Then a flash of ice poured down my spine and lodged in my gut. The old man was dead.
I scrambled back, but didn’t get very far before hands grabbed me under my armpits and hauled me off the bed. I squawked and tried to swing at my attacker who spun me around and threw me to the floor. One hand shoved my face into the teak deck, redolent of varnish and wood, the other one pinned my arms behind my back. Cold metal snicked around my wrists. What-? A knee landed on my kidney knocking the breath out of my lungs, stopping my protest.
Before I could refill my lungs I was jerked to my feet and found myself staring into a pair of cold gray eyes behind wire frame glasses. He had full lips and a lean, lightly freckled face below a harsh Marine cut. He was a redhead. The freckles didn’t fit. They gave him a boyish quality that didn’t go with his grimness. He was taller than me by several inches. He had a massive chest that would have split bricks.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“Detective Alexander Spider. SBPD. Who are you?”
I gaped at him. “What the hell kind of name is Spider?”
“My father’s,” he snapped.
I tugged at the handcuffs holding my arms behind my back. My shoulders ached from the unnatural position.
“Who is he?” Spider asked.
It took me about two seconds to realize he meant the body on the bed. I glanced over at the dead man but still didn’t recognize him. Not enough to put a name to him. So how had I ended up in bed with him? And whose bed was it? Not mine. I lived in a dump on Los Cerrados Street. I worked at the harbor, at Channel Charters taking tourists out to the Channel Islands for bird-watching trips. I had snuck a trick onto one of the boats more than once. It always impressed the cute twinks and guaranteed a hard fuck, but I hadn’t done anything like that last night. Had I?
Spider pushed me around, forcing me to look down at the corpse.
He looked over my shoulder, toward the galley. I caught movement there and realized a second cop was busy photographing everything in sight, including me.
“Who is he?” The detective’s voice broke through my confusion. I jerked around to look at him, thinking frantically.
I searched my memory for something, anything that would tell me who the dead guy was and why I was with him. As distasteful as the thought was I even took minute stock of my own body trying to detect any signs I’d been fucked by the guy. Nothing. I couldn’t see any signs of sexual activity. So whoever the blond guy I thought I had been with, we hadn’t done anything either. No half empty drinks. No used condoms. Thank God there were no lines of coke anywhere or those little glassine packs I get my beans and Oxy in. I could just imagine how that would go over with this law jockey.
He jerked my arm up. Shards of pain shot up my shoulders. “Who is he?” he shouted.
Finally I found my voice. I tried to shake him off, but his grip was like a steel band. “Let me go. I haven’t done anything-”
“You always sleep with corpses?” He leaned in so close I could see the dark rims of his irises behind his glasses. His nostrils flared and he showed the tip of his teeth in a feral grin. “Who is he? Why did you kill him?”
“Kill – I didn’t kill anyone. And I don’t know who he is.”
“What are you doing here? You meet him here or did he bring you? Where’d he find you? Hades? Wildcat? The Vault?”
If I’d been thinking straight I might have wondered how he knew so much about the local bondage scene, but I was too confused, and face it, scared. I was in the middle of something I didn’t understand, being grilled by a man who, it was fast becoming clear, wanted to pin this mess on me.
I glared at him, trying to look tough. “Why would I kill somebody I don’t know?”
“We’ll get to that. What is your name, sir?”
That threw me a bit. I’m not used to being called sir by too many people. Under normal circumstances I might have looked behind me to see if he meant someone else. Instead I opened my mouth to tell him to fuck off. He pulled at my aching arms again, stopping the words in my throat.
“Don’t bother,” he said. “What’s your name? Or do I need to pat you down and find your ID myself?” His gaze slid down my skintight, pocket-less pants and bare chest and his mouth twisted in a grimace. “Guess that would be a waste of time. One last time. Who are you? I want your name.”
“Jason,” I said. When that didn’t satisfy him I added, “Jason Aaron Zachary.”
Another cop entered the cabin. Female this time. She ignored me.
“ME’s here,” she told Spider. “You ready for him?”
“Sure,” he said. “Let’s get this mutt out of here.”
“This mutt isn’t going anywhere without a lawyer,” I said, bracing my feet as though I thought I could keep the two of them from moving me. It didn’t help that Spider looked amused and totally unthreatened.
“Oh, don’t worry. You’ll get your phone call. You can make two or three for all I care.”
“Am I under arrest?”
Spider looked genuinely puzzled at my obtuseness. “Yes,” he said, then read me my rights off a card he pulled from a leather folder. When he asked if I understood, I numbly nodded yes.
I vacillated between apathy and terror. I darted glances at the body of the old man on the narrow bunk. It lay on top of a dark navy sheet, which I belatedly realized had darker spots smeared on it. I looked down at my latex-clad legs. Striped Parade pants was about all I had on. What the hell? I only wore my fetish gear on hot dates when I was enticed by someone with deep pockets. My shirt, socks and brand new Captoe boots had vanished at some point. My gaze fell to my crotch and saw the same dark spots. It was the red smear on my stomach that tipped me over. I stared at it in horror. I was covered in still wet blood. His? Mine? Dizziness swept through me. I swayed on my feet, hyperventilating. My stomach threatened to empty itself. Spider grabbed my shoulder and shoved my head down.
“Bend over. Head between your knees. Take deep breaths.”
I did as he ordered and the dizziness and nausea faded. I took a final deep breath and straightened, refusing to meet his gaze, sure I’d see contempt there. Or worse, pity.
“Come on,” he said gruffly. “We’ll talk down at the station.”
“Let me get dressed, at least-” I looked around for the rest of my clothes. I couldn’t have come here like this, could I have? It had been cool last night. Where was my shit?
They both ignored me.
I protested the whole time they dragged me through the cockpit, out onto the carpeted deck and the stern loading platform. I squeaked with every step I took. The sound was loud in the enclosed boat. It didn’t get much better when we stepped out on the deck. The rising sun was a curdled lozenge of yellow light over the mountains. A nearby forest of masts rose through the early morning fog. It must have been around seven. Around us, the sounds of an awakening dock were muffled by the dense air. Boat engines rumbled and turned over, voices shouted orders. Metal squeaked and booted feet slapped the wooden pier. A pair of pale-blue costumed figures carrying cases threaded through the clutter on the docks,. They passed us then disappeared into the belly of the ship. They looked like space aliens.
Tendrils of fog curled around my bare feet. A large, white-headed glaucous-wing gull hovered off the port bow then drifted toward shore. Its familiar kak-kak-kak followed us as Spider pulled me off a boat I now recognized: Cutting Edge, the Catalina 50, largest yacht in Phil’s fleet. We moved so fast I kicked and tripped over gear and flotsam left out on the dock. They showed no regard for my rapidly bruising bare feet. I was stuffed into a black and white cruiser under the curious eyes of the entire population of Santa Barbara. I saw Phil Collins, Channel Charter’s owner. My boss. My former boss, by now.
With my hands cuffed behind me, I had to lean forward on the already uncomfortable seat, which smelled vaguely of piss and vomit. The strain on my shoulders increased with each pothole and manhole we hit. Ten minutes of silence and growing fear later, we pulled up in front of a white stucco two-story building. I was dismayed to see a Channel 3 news truck and a cluster of people with cameras and microphones. How’d they get here so fast? The uniformed driver in front of me swore, then Spider was beside my door. He pulled me out into the glare of lights and shouting voices.
“Is it true you were found with the body of George Blunt?” someone shouted.
I stared at the woman who had thrown out the question. George Blunt? Who was George Blunt? Was I supposed to know the name?
I’d never been to the Santa Barbara police station. Lucky me. Spider led me past a front desk manned by a big-bellied desk sergeant, and through a warren of offices and cubicles. Posters and public service announcements covered the walls. A cacophony of ringing phones and voices filled the crowded room. A cool wash of air blew in whenever the main doors swung open. I was shivering by the time Spider led me into a tiny closed-in room. A woman in a white smock came in after us and used swabs to collect blood from my stomach and hands. When she produced a needle, I balked.
Spider shook his head. “I will compel you to give us blood for tox testing. You’re under arrest. You can’t refuse.” Then he nodded at the white smocked woman who deftly withdrew a vial of blood and slapped a band-aid over the puncture mark. I glared at Spider. After she was gone Spider pointed at a chair on the other side of a small metal table. I sat, the back of the chair cool on my spine. My latex leggings clung to my thighs but provided no warmth. I felt naked – hell, I damn near was naked. My shriveled dick pressed up against the latex. It was obvious I had no underwear on.
At least the cop came around and took the cuffs off. I leaned over the table, rubbed my wrists and tried to look tough. He took the seat opposite me.