QSFer Lyle Blake Smythers has a new MM paranormal mystery out:
Supernatural private detective Finn M’Coul knows the underworld is still pushing shotweed, a wickedly addictive and fatal drug, and his handsome young friend Gray is in its thrall. Finn goes undercover, following Gray into a drug treatment center that was once a mental hospital…haunted by its history of straitjackets, lobotomies, and sterilizations. He arrives in time for an outbreak of murderous insanity. Is it caused by a parasite infecting these addicts, or the actual ghosts of the asylum?
His task is complicated by cracks in the skin of reality. Through these fissures, glimpses of the past come through, along with demons who try to get into bed with the inmates and sexually violate them. Is this some hellish experiment gone wrong? Finn must survive to find the truth…and his friend.
The second M’Coul and Ghoul novel
People who work in a mental hospital don’t like you to call it an insane asylum. Especially when it’s no longer being used for its original purpose.
As usual, I’m getting ahead of myself. What got me into a nineteenth-century Hospital for the Negro Insane in the mountains of Virginia was that Halloween party. The Halloween party from hell.
October was giving us an Indian summer like none I had seen in years. Heavy warm rain poured down as thick as lava and made navigating the streets of our nation’s capital hard. The Egret’s windshield wipers were semaphoring so crazily, I thought they might fly away.
On a night like that, you can grow a beard waiting for a taxi, so Sasha had implored me to pick her up at the bar on my way to the party. The party that was her idea.
Licking Knob is a hole in the wall off a murder alley behind the Department of Labor. The Egret was almost too wide to get past the big rubber trash cans lining the brick walls, but I managed. Sasha was waiting in the doorway of the bar. She tore open the passenger side and threw herself inside. Her skinny black dress was so long I wasn’t sure it would fit in the car, but she managed.
She almost spilled some kind of drink she carried in a hideous yellow plastic cup. I could smell the bourbon, cinnamon, syrup, butter, and hot water and knew it was a Hot Brick. The Nose knows.
“They’re putting Gray in an insane asylum,” she said breathlessly before I even had time to pull away from the curb. “Except they’re not calling it that anymore.”
“I’m suffused with joy to see you too,” I told her. “Hang on and don’t slosh that concoction into my lap. We may hit a few potholes between here and Georgetown.”
“My dear Finn, what kind of comment is that? When I just told you Gray is about to be locked up with a bunch of sickies?”
“I’ve had several centuries to practice hiding my emotions.”
I got a mental flash of our friend’s long lanky body, his goofy-but-cute frog face split by an incandescent grin that seemed to wrap around his entire head. Snapping black eyes, shaggy dark hair, widow’s peak above a broad forehead bisected by a throbbing vein. Then a jump cut to the video where we had seen him last, twisting desperately in his bondage, on his way to the most intense orgasm of his nineteen years.
Sasha shook her head violently, making her black wig do snaky things in the air. She was in her favorite Kabuki makeup, with bold and saucy whiskers drawn on the perfect alabaster of her face, but she had left her cat ears and tail at home. The ridiculously long train of her dress was now bunched up in her lap.
“Who are you supposed to be, by the way?” I was worried about Gray, and I needed a moment to think.
“Morticia. You know, The Addams Family.”
“Carolyn Jones from the TV show, or Anjelica Huston from the movies? And I don’t remember Morticia having cat whiskers.”
“Artistic license, my dear. Can we please talk about Gray? It’s why we’re going to this party in the first place.”
“All right, let’s talk about this party. Knowing Rothrock, it’s going to be a real horror show. His house will be full of people from the Slice. You do have the invitation? He was insistent that no one gets in without one.”
We were taking a corner at greater speed than was perhaps advisable in the rain, and she steadied herself with one hand. With the other, she nested the drink between her knees and dug deep inside her dress, fishing out a large card on stiff blood-red paper. “The Masque of the Red Death. It says costumes are also an entrance requirement. And the way he explained it to me, you have to be a real person or a specific character from a book or a movie or play. So you can’t just go as a pirate, you’d have to be Long John Silver from Treasure Island.”
“And tell me again why we’re going?”
She sighed histrionically. “I explained that this morning. To find out where they’re putting Gray. Last night, one of the bartenders at Leda was talking about what he heard from a friend of his. This friend works at the District’s Substance Abuse Services. You know how they sometimes will fund a stay in rehab for residents with a serious problem.”
“The friend knew that Gray is a regular at Leda and the Swan, and she told this bartender they were sending him off somewhere that wasn’t local. She wasn’t sure which treatment center.”
“And I got the friend’s name and number, and I talked to her this morning. She was extremely congenial. She said she would find out which rehab Gray was being dispatched to. The only thing she knew for sure was that it’s a program being run out of a former mental hospital. She promised she would find out which one.”
“And I suppose there’s a good reason why she couldn’t just give you this information over the phone? Why we have to go to Rothrock’s party to get it?”
She took a big slug of her Hot Brick. “She can’t find out until the party, because she’s going to the party with her boss, who’s one of the bigwigs at SAS. She says she has to get a few drinks in her boss to get the info.”
I almost ran us off the road. “My stars, Sasha. This is a bad episode of some bad soap opera. Can’t she look at Gray’s folder or chart or whatever they call his records?”
“They call it your jacket. And apparently she can’t get access to it because Gray was assigned to a case manager in a different department or something. Her boss will know, though.”
“Goody. Now all we have to do is endure a house full of drunken theater people. Everyone who works at the Slice, and probably the entire cast of The Hand of Dracula. How in the name of bleeding Jesus did two staff members from Substance Abuse get invited to Rothrock’s party anyway?”
Lyle Blake Smythers is an actor, writer and librarian in the Washington, D.C., area. Since 1976 he has performed in over 100 stage productions, including three appearances at the National Theatre. He has published fiction, poetry, satire and literary criticism in Manscape, FirstHand, Playguy, The William and Mary Review, Insights, School Library Journal and Children’s Literature Review. A former children’s librarian, he is currently providing cataloging support for an ongoing project at the Library of Congress.
His gay-themed fantasy novels now include Feasting With Panthers, Death by Sin, and Worms of Sin, and his story “Monsters So Fair” was featured in the original Pink Narcissus Press anthology Queer Fish.