QSFer Charli Coty has a new MM paranormal mystery book out:
Colin Page, eighteen-year-old community college student, apple polisher and all-around goody-goody, has a secret. He sees things that aren’t there. Unfortunately, the Doc Martens on the floor of the mail vestibule in his apartment building really are there and attached to a dead body. Hunkered over the body is someone Colin had barely noticed before, Private Investigator Al Green. Most people scare Colin, but for some reason, Al doesn’t, even after he reveals that he knows about the hidden reality of their world.
Alonzo Green, despite his low-power mind, is determined to help right the wrongs he unknowingly contributed to. He’s also hopelessly smitten. He knows it’s wrong—probably even dangerous—to enlist Colin’s help with the investigation. And that’s before considering all Al has to fear from Colin’s fiercely protective and powerful mother.
Colin and Al put some of the pieces together, but as soon as one thing becomes clear, the picture changes. The search for the Big Bad takes them from Portland to Tacoma and Seattle, and eventually to San Francisco, but their journey into each other’s arms is much shorter.
Charli is giving away a book from her backlist:
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Colin always hesitated before getting into the rickety old elevator. It didn’t seem safe to ride in something, even four floors, if you could see the individual boards―which looked suspiciously similar to two-by-fours―vibrating. Or maybe it had more to do with the dust, grime, and cobwebs coating every visible surface, or maybe the preconceived notion he’d had that college would be different from high school. He held his breath and stepped in as the door closed.
He looked around, and thought he was alone in the lobby until he’d made it halfway to the front door. Someone cursed, and Colin turned to see a pair of black Doc Martens lying on the floor, partially sticking out from the mailbox alcove. He recognized the white symbols hand drawn on the backs of the heels. The guy who owned those boots―Tattoo Guy―lived in the building, but he and Colin hadn’t done more than nod hello. Colin’s mom had warned him time and again not to talk to anyone in the building because he’d be dragged into some drama or other, and he needed to focus on school. Maybe Tattoo Guy was hurt and needed help. He couldn’t just leave.
He reached the juncture of the hallway and the alcove housing the tarnished little brass doors to everyone’s mailboxes and saw another familiar someone. The large man was hunkered down beside Tattoo Guy. He wore battered jeans and steel-toed boots with a hole in the leather of one toe. The neck of his dark-green T-shirt was stretched out of shape, and his black leather jacket looked a half size too small. Colin struggled to come up with a word to describe him but couldn’t think of an antonym to doppelganger. That man was everything Colin was not, especially tall and dark.
“What’s that purple mist?” Colin asked, startling himself. He never spoke to strangers, especially not about―
“It’s more a fog.”
Odd. The man didn’t seem surprised. It did remind Colin of pictures of fog rolling in around the Golden Gate Bridge. Only these misty tendrils were purple and gradually disappeared as they moved farther away from Tattoo Guy.
“Why won’t you answer me?”
“What else do you see?” He turned slightly toward Colin but remained hunkered down, studying Tattoo Guy but not touching him.
“Nothing.” Colin blinked, and that fast, it wasn’t true anymore. “Crap, his tattoo just moved.”
“No. The flower.” The purple tendrils had decayed so much they’d stopped diverting Colin’s attention from the blood on Tattoo Guy’s arm and the back of his shirt. He was obviously more than hurt.
“The violet moved?”
“It slapped the cymbal. I heard it.” Colin thought about running, but his feet refused to move.
“It’d help if one of them named the killer.” The large man stood slowly and brushed off his hands. A little over six feet tall and slightly bulky, his long shaggy hair and full beard shot through with gray made him look like a street person. “Some of these tats have mouths. Are they saying anything?”
“What?” Colin took a step back. “Aren’t you going to call the police?”
“Already have. But I plan on starting an investigation of my own. The police are busy. If he doesn’t have any family to make noise―and I know he doesn’t―they won’t put much effort into finding out who killed him.”
“Why do you think someone killed him?”
“Murder is purple.” He slowly reached into his jacket and smiled as he brought out a pastel-green business card. “I’m a private investigator. Al Green.”
“You must not be a very good one if you live here.” Colin took another step back but then moved forward to take the card. The card read “Alonzo Green, P.I.” along with an address near Union Station, in one of the most red-and-purple areas in Portland. “Green” was obviously fake―Colin could see the lie without even trying. Al’s olive complexion said he was of Mediterranean descent so his real last name probably sounded more romantic. Literally.
“I do all right, but a lot of my clients aren’t in a position to pay much.” Al tilted his head toward the young man on the floor.
Colin remembered he should be afraid and stepped back again. “Why would someone do this to him? He seemed nice.” In truth, he was hot and seemed the tiniest bit dangerous, but most people seemed dangerous to Colin, so he didn’t hold it against Tattoo Guy.
“That’s what I’m hoping to find out.”
The police arrived―two bored officers in uniforms―one old with a potbelly and one young and thin with a huge Adam’s apple. They said to wait in the corner and then talked in code through their walkie-talkies. Colin had never been particularly interested in police work, but he watched and listened and made plans to search for the decoder ring online so he’d know what they were talking about.
Guilt washed over him when the officers came to talk to them, but these were different police officers in a different city―a completely different state, even. And they probably couldn’t see the guilt and shame he carried, anyway.
“You found the body, sir?” the older policeman asked Al, watching him closely with one hand on the butt of his gun.
“Al. Alonzo Green. I’m a private investigator.” Al smiled as they shook hands, but the potbellied officer still looked suspicious as he asked Al about what he’d seen and what he knew about the victim.
Don’t tell the police Al has nothing to do with what happened to Tattoo Guy. They’ll ask how you know and you’ll probably end up telling them you could see it if he was lying.
By the time a detective in street clothes finished talking to them―and warned them not to leave town, disguising it as a request to notify the department of any travel plans―his partner had taken pictures and sketched the lobby, and paramedics had rolled a sheet-covered gurney out to a county van and taken it away.
Al looked sideways at Colin and grinned. “Crap?”
“Huh?” Those cops must have scared me more than I thought if I’ve been reduced to grunting monosyllables.
“You said crap when the tattoo moved.”
Colin shivered at the memory. Then straightening, he turned to Al. “Profanity is a crutch for those with weak vocabularies. I don’t need it.”
Al smiled. “What should I call you?”
Colin frowned. “Cobalt.”
“You have reasons to be angry.” Al nodded.
“What’s that supposed to mean? You don’t know me.” Colin resisted the urge to ask Al a million questions, working back to their conversation by the mailboxes. Al would probably answer with another question.
“No, I don’t know you.”
Al pulled the door open and held it so Colin could leave. Colin stopped on the sidewalk and watched as Al went to the bus stop on the corner. It was near the place where Colin caught his bus to campus, so he stopped there too.
“You’re taking the bus into Old Town?” A bus approached, and Colin almost hoped it wasn’t Al’s.
“I thought you’d have a motorcycle.”
Al shrugged. “I could say something profound about not judging a book by its cover, but I’ll spare you.”
“You mean something cliché.”
Al laughed. He seemed tired for first thing in the morning and had spent the past hour talking about a murder, but Colin thought Al sounded as though he’d been disarmed by their conversation.
Charli Coty has always believed in magic, aliens, and things that go bump in the night. When forced to venture out into the “real world” she can be found in a cramped cubicle surrounded by far too much light, erasing bisexual erasure, or knitting something naughty. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area during a drought and found her true home in the soggy Pacific Northwest. Charli has survived droughts, earthquakes, and floods, but couldn’t make it through one day without stories.
Charli Coty is the new pseudonym for the author known as Charley Descoteaux. Charli’s pronouns have not changed but she is looking forward to signing books as Mx. Coty.
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