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First pages

1

Professor Harwood Ellis, Chairman of the Department of Forensic Sciences at the University of Los Angeles, in California, or ULAC as it was locally known, exhaled a sigh of relief. It wasn’t that he doubted that he could easily outwit this clueless clown of a police detective. Rather, he was simply relieved that the detective, Lt. Tony Paloma, was leaving, so that he, Prof. Ellis could return to his work.

Prof. Ellis was one of the country’s foremost authorities in the science of psychological interrogation, which in practice was as much the art as science of finding the truth, of distinguishing fact from fiction, outing evildoers, catching bad guys, nabbing perps, solving crimes, discerning people’s thoughts and feelings.

Lt. Paloma’s questions were so laughably inept that if he were one of Ellis’ students, he would receive a failing grade or be subtly harassed into dropping the class. That is assuming that he could get into ULAC in the first place, a highly improbable proposition.

The professor had been in the midst of a difficult statistical analysis of white collar crime data, identity-theft to be exact. Due to budget cuts, computer services and resources were curtailed. Moreover, Professor Ellis didn’t fully trust technology. Too many bugs, too many security holes. He did his computations by hand, old-school style. It took time, but he knew his data up close and personal. Computers spew out results, pages and pages of eigen-values and factor scores, it was true, but most of the young people these days lacked the dirty hands-on contact with their own data to really understand what the numbers meant. No wonder so many bogus and non-replicable results were being published.

Suddenly his reverie was interrupted. “Excuse me, sorry sir, There’s just one thing that’s bothering me, sir….”

“Yes, yes, what is it?” the professor demanded impatiently.

“It’s about the 2 foot piece of rebar.”

“The what?” the professor asked.

“The rebar sir, the reinforced steel bar. We found it under the bed.”

“Oh yes, the rebar. Well, there’s nothing odd about that. I was having some repairs done. The repair man obviously left it behind. Now that that’s settled, I’d like to get back to my work.”

“Yes, of course sir. I know you’re a very busy man. There’s just one thing.”

“Yes, and what might that be?” the professor asked condescendingly.

“It was the murder weapon. Eura Himes, your grad student assistant. Her head was caved in with a piece of rebar. It was the piece found in your office, sir. Her blood was on it.”

“My God. That’s terrible! And you want me to help solve the, how do you police men call it, ‘caper’?”

“Homicide, sir. We call it homicide.”

“And how can I be of assistance?”

“That won’t be necessary, sir. We have the case solved already.”

“Thank God. But what do you want from me?”

“Just a question, sir. Could you tell me by any chance why your fingerprints are on the rebar?”

“Even you should be able to grasp that obvious fact,” the professor began. He then slumped down into his chair, silent. “I want a lawyer” he said.

2

“Well, what do you think?”

“Dude, it sounds like an episode of Burke’s Law.”

“So?”

“Uh, plagiarism much? Lack of originality?”

Burke’s Law was a 60’s TV series. This is a book. And plus, that was just the intro. Don’t judge a book by its intro. There’s more than that. Much more. My book has all the things they couldn’t put in a 60’s network prime-time series. Cool things that no one could even imagine back then, expressed in the language of today. This is a not a book for artsy types, grad students, New York Times reviewers. This is a book for Hollywood story editors. This a big story for the big screen. With many sequels, hopefully.”

“Why don’t you just write a screenplay or movie treatment?”

“Do you know how hard it is to get anyone to look at an original screenplay with something to say?”

“Pretty hard? Very hard?”

“You won’t be laughing when the casting director asks me who I see as Tyrell Gladstone Tidings, Tia Jaeger, Lexa Haze, Dee Roper, Modesto Vanwinkle, Kyle Dykes, Edgar Pervis, Belva Franz, Wilmer Bivitz, Orval Berger…..”

“Who?”

“They’re all characters in the story. Check this out, the story is made up of stories within stories, you know, like one of those Russian doll things. You open it and there’s another one just like it inside, except, obviously, smaller. The main character, the hero dude, is a detective story writer who gets mistaken for a real detective by someone who needs a detective. Now check this out: the hero dude is a real person. I don’t mean real as in real life, but real as in real in the story.

“Dude, that’s pretty confusing.”

“You’re getting it!”

“Getting what?”

“The idea of the story. It’s supposed to be confusing.”

“Supposed to be confusing? Why? What’s the point?”

“There’s no point. It’s a story. The director can do whatever he wants with it. It has something for everyone.”

“Or she.”

“Yeah right, or she, whoever.”

Modesto looked like he needed more convincing.

“Don’t you get it? It will have something for every market segment. It’s going to be topical, dealing with now, today, the world we live it, terrorists of course, computers, conspiracies, explosions, aliens, everything. The potential for sequels and spin-offs is unlimited.”

“You’ll need a relationship angle for the chicks.”

“Hell yeah it does. I’m on it. The hero will save the client, who will be a young, sexy, but innocent girl from somewhere in the middle of nowhere, come to LA, to make it in movies. She gets involved in some kind of problem. Maybe she works as a cam girl to make ends meet while waiting for her break in Hollywood. She gets stalked. Someone hacks her cam account and threatens to expose her to her family back in Iowa or wherever. Maybe they are a bunch of Mormon fundamentalists or something. Maybe she isn’t betting everything on a movie career. Maybe her secret dream is to be an elementary school teacher. Or a politician. Her camming career would put the kibosh on either of those.”

“Could work. I can see it.”

“Sure. Cyber stalking offers scope for lots of computer gimmicks, passwords, flashing lights, screens full of indecipherable code. Kids love that. On the other hand, a real homicidal stalker has merit too. Danger, suspense, some sexual inappropriatness, a little nudity maybe, a last-second rescue, a dollop of martial arts action, needless to say. Psychological profiling too. People love that. The killer among us thing.”

“Gotta go dude, boss is giving me the eye. Gotta look busy.”

“Ok, check you later.”

Tyrell Gladstone Tidings, also known as Ty, Glad, or Tide—a multi-faceted man with a wide network of informants, supplicants, and acquaintances needed many aliases and nicknames—opened his notebook computer and accessed a web-based random-name generator. All the good names had already been used. Miles Archer, Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Floyd Thursby, Effie Perine, Joel Cairo, Caspar Gutman, Rusty Regan, Joe Brody, Arthur Gwynn Gieger, Eddie Mars, Bernie Ohls, just to name a few. Those were good names. He needed technology to come up with something that hadn’t been done before. It was harder than it looked.

He also needed a gimmick, some physical activity to avoid an overly dialog-heavy script, when it gets to that point. Old school detectives used to fire up a cigarette or pour a shot of Jack Daniels. Ty didn’t smoke or drink the hard stuff. Couldn’t do that in the places he hung out in, mostly Santa Monica and Venice Beach coffee shops. Firing up a lap top made more sense. He made a note to change lap top to smart phone, or whatever they were, when he figured out how to use them. Everyone had them, how hard could it be?

Ty was interrupted from his thoughts by a young girl, wearing short blue pants and halter top and red high-heeled sneakers. She had blond hair, pink lipstick, and blue eye-shadow, tastefully applied. Mirrored sunglasses balanced precariously on top of her head.

“Excuse me,” she said. “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. If I’m not being too inquisitive, are you a detective?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Well, from what you were saying, to your friend, the barrista guy over there, it seemed that you were a detective or something. I heard you say something about an investigation and clues. Was I imagining it? I hope I wasn’t.”

Ty paused a moment for effect. “As a matter of fact, yes. I am a detective,” he said.

3

“I’m so glad to hear that. I need help, Mr……?”

“Tidings. Tyrell Gladstone Tidings. You can call me Ty. Or Glad. Or Tide.”

“I’m Tia Jeager.”

“Tia Jeager?” It sounded like a stripper’s fake name. He didn’t want to come out and say it though. It might be inappropriate. Hell, it might even be her real name, what with the names people give their kids these days. Better to keep his yap shut.

“It’s not my real name. Well, not really.”

“Uh, ok. Either way, nice to meet you Miss…..Jeager. What seems to be the problem?”

“I changed it. For the obvious reasons. My name I mean. It’s Zulma Oroszko. I mean it was before I changed it.”

Zulma Oroszko didn’t sound like a stripper’s fake name. More like a stripper’s real name, he thought. Romanian probably. Most strippers are from Romania, aren’t they? She didn’t seem to have an accent though. He was beginning to get suspicious. Everyone has a scam here in LA. He decided to get straight to the point.

“So what’s the problem?”

“It’s a long story. I’m being stalked. And blackmailed.”

“Stalked and blackmailed?”

“I think so.”

“By the same person, or different persons?”

“I don’t know.”

“Have you notified the police?”

“I thought about it. Like, would the publicity be good or would it be bad? I decided not to. They might want to see my identification.”

His suspicions increased. “Tell me about it.”

“Well, as I mentioned, I cam.”

He had no clue what she was talking about.

“You can what?”

“Not ‘can’. ‘Cam’. I’m a cam girl. You know.” She acted like cam girls were common knowledge.

Maybe they were. But not to Tyrell Gladstone Tidings.

He tried to look like he was getting it, hoping that he eventually would. Sooner or later she’d spill something that made some sort of sense, even in LA. That was the idea anyway.

“It sounds like you have things under control. So what went wrong?”

“Can’t we find a less public place to talk?“ she asked.

“We’re a block from the ocean?” he suggested.

“Uh, yeah?” She didn’t get it.

“The sound of the surf and seagulls will drown out our voices. We can be sure no one gets close enough to hear anyway.”

He had no idea what sort of dizzy story she was planning to spin but it was better to be safe than sorry. Especially in a place like LA.


4

They walked down Rose to Pacific, then took a left on Navy Street, crossed the boardwalk and walked out about halfway between the sidewalk and the shoreline. An interminable stream of skaters zipped by on the boardwalk, encased in mirrored sunglasses and headphones, oblivious to the secret stinking urban cesspool that surrounded them. Old people walking their dogs mixed with tourists gawking at the Venice Beach freak show. A guy was playing a piano in the back of a Toyota pickup truck, collecting occasional coins or dollar bills from people who paused to listen. He wasn’t bad. A kid was walking around with a boa constrictor around his neck. The beach cops told him to leave. Animals weren’t allowed on the beach. “Whatever,” he said. A guy who had taken too much of the wrong thing was laying in the sand shrieking, kicking at imaginary tormenters.

“This is a lot different from Columbus,” Tia said.

“Columbus?”

“Columbus, Ohio. That’s where I’m from.”

“And you came from there to here, to be in movies?”

“Everyone comes from somewhere, Mr. Tidings.”

“Not me, I’m from here. Born and raised in Venice Beach.”

“You must have had a wonderful childhood,” Tia said brightly.

“Parents were divorced when I was three. Lived with my mom in trailers, cars, fleabag hotels, on the couches in the front rooms of friends of friends. My mom was a hooker and my dad, well, some things are better left to the imagination.”

It was all a lie. Ty had a solid upper middle-class upbringing in the San Fernando Valley. His folks were vaguely in the entertainment business. They made direct-to-video chop-socky movies. They weren’t trying to win any Oscars. The closest Ty ever came to a fleabag hotel was a back projection on a budget movie set.

“Tia, do you see that guy over there, in the red windbreaker?”

“Yes, what about him?”

“Do you see what he’s doing?”

“He’s standing there.”

“Anything else?”

“He’s looking at the water.”

“You look, but you do not see,” Ty said.

“What do you mean? What do I not see?” she asked, slightly irritated.

“Look at him. He’s wearing a red windbreaker. What else do you see?”

“He has on a baseball cap, black sweat pants, and white running shoes.”

“What about his age?” Ty asked.

“What about it?” she answered.

“I mean, about how old would you say he was?”

“Does it matter?”

“It might.”

She paused. “I don’t know, pretty old” She paused again. “Do you think he’s the one? The stalker I mean?”

It hadn’t occurred to Ty. That wasn’t the point he was trying to make. He was merely conducting an exercise in observation. Detectives have to do that, after all.

He filled her in.

“He looks about 40 years old. He’s in pretty good shape for an old guy. Probably jogs, maybe hits the gym a couple times week, this being Venice Beach and all.”

“So?”

“Could be useful to know. Suppose we need to keep tabs on a suspect. Wouldn’t it be nice to know where he spends his time?”

“I guess so”. She seemed to be catching on.

“Now you try. What else do you see?”

“Nothing special.”

“Is he holding anything?” Ty asked rhetorically. It was obvious that he was.

“Now that you mention it, I think he is. But I can’t see what it is exactly.”

“Let’s test our powers of deduction. What is he doing?”

“He’s throwing things, sometimes. Other times he’s holding his hand up. Sometimes he’s kneeling. He’s doing a lot of things. So what?”

“But there’s something different about this guy. Look at the other people on the beach. What are they doing?”

“Most are walking or jogging. One guy is fishing. A few are sitting in the sand.”

“Excellent. Now, there is one thing that is noticeably different about this guy. Can you spot it?”

“Mr. Tidings. I’m not a detective. Why does it matter what he’s doing?”

“It’s part of the science of deduction.”

“I don’t see anything special. He’s just a guy on the beach with a red windbreaker, surrounded by birds. Oh, wasn’t there a movie like that? Why are all the birds all around him?”

“Good work, my friend. Those birds happen to be Laurus Californicus. Otherwise known as seagulls. California seagulls to be precise. You will observe that some are walking, some are in the air, but all of them are looking at the guy in the red windbreaker.”

“Are they going to kill him?”

“No Tia. What you failed to notice was what he was doing. From time to time, at regular intervals—46 seconds exactly—I know because I have been quietly timing them while we were talking, he either tosses out one of these objects, or he holds it out in his hand. The seagulls obviously want what he has. Perhaps ‘want’ is too anthropomorphic. Nevertheless, all of them, with no exception, are focused not only on the guy, but on his hand, or more likely, what he has in his hand.”

“Which is what?”

“Can’t you guess? What do seagulls like?”

“I don’t know anything about seagulls.”

“It is bread, my dear young lady. He has a large loaf of generic whole-wheat bread in a plastic bag.”

“How did you know that?”

“Elementary, my dear girl”, he answered. He hoped it wasn’t inappropriate to call her ‘dear’. These days people were so touchy about being inappropriate.

 “I can see that it’s brown, so it isn’t white bread. It’s obviously pre-cut. And he’s giving it away to birds. It makes sense that he wouldn’t spend more than necessary. We could verify that by asking him.”

“No, no, that’s ok, I believe you.”

“You will also observe, I think, that in front of the guy there are about 15 lines drawn in the sand in a semi-circle, each about 12 inches from the next, and marked by what seems to be a Popsicle stick sticking out of the sand.”

“That’s weird. I hadn’t noticed. What does it mean?”

“A good detective has to have a wide range of obscure knowledge. You never know what you’ll need to know to figure out a case. You also have to be observant and pay attention to details. I like the beach. I live close by in fact, on Navy Street. Seagulls are a feature of the local environment. I watch people, and I watch seagulls. Seagulls are a lot like people. You can learn a lot about people by watching seagulls. And vice versa.”

“Has your knowledge about seagulls been useful in any case so far?”

In fact, he had no reason to think seagulls were relevant to Tia’s problem, which he didn’t even really know what it was yet. He just wanted to make her think he knew what he was doing.

“Every time the guy throws out a piece of bread, a small group of nearby birds will pounce on and squabble over it. The first one that grabs it will fly off, with the others chasing him. Sometimes the guy holds a piece in his hand, sometimes above his head, sometimes out in front at waist level. In those cases, one or more gulls will move toward it. Sometimes they hover close to it cautiously and eventually one will make a quick dash in to grab it. If he holds it low, most of the gulls stay on the ground, eyes fixed on the bread and the hand. Some approach, some stay back. Obviously gulls have personalities, like people. Some are risk-averse. They don’t get any bread. A few are risk-taking. They get bread. On the other hand the risk-averse gulls are less likely to get caught and eaten. The guy with the bread isn’t going to eat them but the gulls don’t know that.”

“That’s kind of interesting, I guess,” Tia said.

“After each piece of bread gets taken, the guy pulls out a notebook and writes something. My guess is he’s writing how he was holding the bread, how far away the gull was that finally took it, what the gull’s approach tactic was, that is, was it flying or walking? And things like that. Maybe how many seconds it took for anything to happen.”

“What about the Popsicles?”

“That was to estimate the distance, of course.”

“That’s so amazing! You got all that from just watching a guy on the beach. I would never have noticed. Seagulls are a lot like people, aren’t they?”

“Actually, people are a lot like seagulls. If you’ve seen enough seagulls, you know most of all there is to know about people. The good parts and the bad. Especially the bad.”

“I never thought of that.”

“Most people don’t. Now, tell me about your problem.”

5

“I was in Free Chat….”

“Where?”

“Free Chat. That’s where you stream a teaser and guys can visit free and write messages on the chat screen. You can answer, if you want, either in text or in words. Or you can just talk.”

“Talk about what?”

“Anything you want. Whatever you think will get them to tip you or take you private, whatever. Collect regulars, whatever. It’s your show.”

“I’m sorry Tia, I’m not following. But never mind. Get to the problem.”

“Well, this one guy showed up a lot, never tipped, but left vanilla comments, like, ‘ur nice, I like u.’ Nothing unusual. But after a while he started writing my real name, Zulma.”

“So?”

“I never tell anyone my real name. No cam girl does. For personal security reasons. It is against the TOS of every legitimate hosting site anyway.”

“TOS?”

“Terms of service.”

“Maybe he guessed. It’s not an unusual name.”

“Not unusual?”

“Ok, maybe it’s unusual. But so what?”

“It’s a sign of a potential stalker. They might know more. They might use the information to out you. They might physically assault you. They might steal your identity. All of the above have happened before to other cam girls.”

“He mentioned your full name?”

“No.”

“The maybe he doesn’t know it.”

“I don’t know what he knows, or even if it’s a he. That’s the problem. It’s beginning to affect my performances. He doesn’t even tip. I banned him.”

“Sounds like problem solved.”

“No. The next day a new visitor texted, ‘I know who you are.’”

“You think it’s the same guy? Or whoever?”

“A couple days later he, or whoever but I think it’s probably a guy, posted a link to a video. The video was me. Not one of my shows. Guys tape and post them all the time. This was video of me camming,” she said, almost hysterically. “I do voyeur camming sometimes when I’m lazy, but I didn’t do this.”

“Voyeur camming?”

“You just put the cam on while you’re doing the laundry, cleaning, cooking, taking a nap, anything. Anything including yourself camming. Some guys will pay to see it.”

“That’s pretty weird.”

“I’m not judgmental.”

“Tia, I have to confess I don’t know a lot about camming. But I know enough about surveillance to know that someone planted a spycam in your room. There’s no other way. All they needed was a spycam and brief access to your room. Why don’t I drop by when it’s convenient for you?”

“It’s convenient now. I’ll be camming tonight from 7 to 9. You can look for the spycam while I’m putting on my makeup and preparing the cam.”

“It’s 11:45 now. Unfortunately my BMW is in the shop right now. I’m using the Blue Line temporarily.”

“I live in Santa Monica. My address is 2376 Fifth Street, apartment 307. If I’m not there when you get there, Lexa will let you in. She’s my roommate?”

“I’ll need to stop off at home to pick up some gear. I live close by so it shouldn’t be more than about 90 minutes, an hour and a half max.”

“I need to pick up some new toys in WeHo. I’ll send Lexa a text to let her know to expect you.”

“Lexa is a cam girl too?”

“Not really.”

“Not really? What does that mean?”

“She helps me occasionally, but doesn’t have her own shop. She has other things going on.”

It was not at all clear what that meant. It was an experience he would need to get used to.

6

Ty walked back to the Rose.

“Dude, can you lend me a dollar? A dollar twenty-five, actually? I’m tapped out,” Ty said to Modesto.

“Got a hot date with the cutie you left with?” Modesto asked.

“Yes. Well, sort of. She’s a client.”

“What? You gave up writing? You’re an agent now?” Modesto asked sarcastically. “Isn’t the agent routine a bit retro? Why not just say you’re a casting director or talent scout? Or studio exec?“ He smirked. Ty didn’t like it when Modesto smirked. It reminded him of Bruce Willis.

“She thinks I’m a detective. She’s in trouble. She thinks I can help. I’m going to try. Her so-called problem is so obvious even you could solve it.”

“How’s that?”

“Dude, someone put a spycam in her room. It’s obvious. She’s a wannabe actress from Kansas or somewhere so it’s beyond her capabilities to think of that. Oddly though, because she must know something about camcorders.”

“Why?”

“She’s a cam girl.”

“I thought you said she was an actress?”

“Yeah, that too. Like you’re an actor.”

“Hey dude, want to see my SAG card? Ever hear of WGAw?

“Neither of the above.”

“It’s the screenwriter’s guild, West Coast branch. I would have thought you’d be a member.”

“Nope, can’t say as I am.”

“People who live in glass houses, dude….”

“Hey, I didn’t say I was a screenwriter. I said I was writing a book. A novel, get it? Actually, more like a comic book without pictures. Every chapter is a new camera set-up. It’s perfect for Hollywood.”

“Keep dreaming.”

“Dreams can come true. Willis was a bartender before Moonlighting. Arnold was a bodybuilder. Raymond Chandler was an oil company executive. Half of the stars and success stories in Hollywood came from humble beginnings.”

“True, but flawed logic. Ninety-nine point nine percent of all the people who want to make it in Hollywood, don’t.”

“Negative thinking is counter-productive.”

“It’s not negative thinking. It’s reality.”

“Speaking of reality, the rent is due tomorrow.”

“No problem, I’m working extra shifts this week.”

“Cool, now about that dollar twenty-five?”

“So you need a dollar twenty-five to play detective?”

“No, I need it for the bus. Either that or I start walking to Santa Monica. I’d rather take the bus. Make it two fifty. I’ll be coming back too. Consider it an investment.”

“Ok, cool, deduct it from the rent money.”

**

Ty walked back to the apartment, powered up his laptop, googled “how to find a hidden spycam,” and quickly found what he was looking for. An RF Bug Detector would do the job, for as little as eleven dollars. Which unfortunately, he didn’t have. He regretted not asking Tia for a retainer, a mistake that he would rectify as soon as he saw her. In the meantime, he would at least be able to sound like he knew what he was talking about. It would be useful for his stories too. Ty had read all sixty Sherlock Holmes stories, including the four novels, and understood the master’s methods. If Tia was being secretly spycammed, the angle of view would indicate where the camera was hidden. He only needed to see the video.

He wondered why that hadn’t occurred to Tia. He made a mental note to ask her. In the meantime he was looking forward to meeting her roommate and learning something about the lives of real-life cam girls. It might be useful for a story.

7

Ty took the Big Blue Bus to Arizona, got off and walked to 2376 Fifth Street. There was an intercom by the main entrance. He pushed the buzzer for apartment 307. No one answered. He waited a half minute and pushed again, holding the button down twice as long. No answer.

“This sucks. I wasted a dollar and twenty-five cents on this.” He was about to leave when he heard the voice of a young woman. It wasn’t Tia’s. “Yes?” the voice said.

“I’m Ty Tidings. Tia said you’d be expecting me.”

“Tia isn’t here now.”

“She said you’d let me in.”

There was a moment of silence and then:

“Hold on.”

He couldn’t blame her for being cautious. Los Angeles was creep-infested cesspool, full of perverts, minorities, washed-up ex-porn stars, Hollywood wannabes, drug-dealers, left-over brain-addled hippies, lost and homeless losers of every variety, studio execs, you name it.

The voice returned. “What did you say your name was again?”

“Ty Tidings.”

“And you met Tia where?”

“At the Rose Café, earlier today. She asked me to come by and look at a little problem she was having.”

“You’re a friend of hers?”

“I just met her. She asked me to help her.”

“You know her from the chat room?”

“The what? No, I met her this morning. She asked me to help. I’ll come back later if you’d rather.”

“No, that’s ok. You can come up.” The automatic door lock opened. He went in.

He walked up to the third floor, found apartment 307, and pushed another buzzer. He heard the sound of bare feet slapping the floor. The door didn’t open. He assumed she was looking at him through the door security peephole. That was what he did when someone knocked on his door. Any reasonably cautious person would do the same, let alone a single girl alone at home in a city like this. He tried to look harmless.

The door opened an inch or two, still tethered by the security chain. An eye peered at his face for a brief time, then looked him up and down. Finally the door closed and then opened all the way.

“Come in, Mr. Tidings. Sorry for the elaborate precautions. Better safe than sorry, especially these days.”

There was a revolver pointed at his belly. It was in her right hand.

“I’m glad you understand. May I see your identification, please, Mr. Tidings?”

“Call me Ty. Of course, I have it in my wallet, which is in my pocket. I will take it out with my right hand. I will move my right hand slowly. I will not make any sudden movements. Would you mind pointing that thing away from me? I have a thing about guns. I don’t like being killed by them.”

“I’m sorry. I do mind. That would defeat the purpose of having a gun, wouldn’t it? Don’t worry, I know how to use it. I won’t shoot you unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

“That’s good to hear. I promise it won’t be necessary.”

He took out his wallet, flipped it open, removed his California state drivers license and handed it to her, slowly. She examined it carefully, turning it over, holding it up to the light, all the while keeping her eyes on Ty and the revolver point at his belly.

“That’s a big gun,” he said.”

“It’s my house gun, a Ruger .357 Magnum Blackhawk with a 12 inch barrel. Plenty of stopping power, if that’s what’s needed.”

“It won’t be,” he said, trying to sound confident.

“Now then, Mr. Tidings, what’s your address?”

“It says right there on the license.”

“I’d like to hear it from you.”

“36 Navy Street, apartment 314, Venice Beach.”

“Your date of birth?”

“January 2, 1970.”

“Your birthplace?”

“Chatsworth, California.”

“Mr. Tidings, are you carrying a gun or weapon of any kind?”

“No, I don’t like guns. Or weapons of any kind.”

“Do you mind if I frisk you?”

“Frisk me!? I thought you were a cam girl. Sure, go ahead.”

“Please turn around. Put your hands behind your back. Lace your fingers together. Spread your feet apart, and put your forehead against the wall. Now move your feet back. A little more. A little more. That’s it.” She patted him down.

He admired her thoroughness. He was also happy that she wouldn’t need to shoot him. He made a mental note to put this in his next novel.

“Sorry about the third-degree, Mr. Tidings. A girl can’t be too careful.”

“Call me Ty. You do this with everyone who comes over?”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Brace Ridge was born in Chicago, Illinois, grew up in East Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and San Francisco in Northern California, went to school in San Jose, San Francisco, and Berkeley, California, and Austin, Texas, lived in Venice Beach, California, Seoul, Korea, Bangkok, Thailand, Tokyo, Japan, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brace has spent time in England, France, Germany, Denmark, Holland, Spain, Mexico, Philippines, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan as well.

Q. What did you learn while writing this book?
A.
I learned a lot about detective fiction, stripper culture, personal security, and biological toxins.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
I never decided. I just did it, starting when I was about five years old. My first story was published in the San Francisco Chronicle and I was paid five dollars. I worked my way through university writing about music, reviewing books and records, and occasional interviews and features.
Q. Which writers inspire you?
A.
At different times and for different reasons, I was inspired, intrigued, entertained, informed, and enlightened by too many writers to list in 300 characters or less. A few: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Mann, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jean-Paul Sartre....

Next in:
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
The Meth Chronicles---Rock
L.A. street gang receives otherwordly justice
A Trail of Embers
Memories flicker, fanning a trail of embers.
Isabel's Escape
Missing father, twisted family, lies, murder