I’m C.S. Poe and welcome back to my monthly column here at Love Bytes! For folks just tuning in, I have a new project featured every 18th of the month, a choose your own adventure story that requires reader participation! If you missed January’s post, check out The Murder Collection Pt. 1 here.
The Murder Collection blurb: Dean Stewart recently graduated from a prestigious art college in New York City. Riding the high of a major success that has put him in the spotlight of the art community, there’s tremendous pressure for Dean to unveil his next collection. The only problem is, he doesn’t have one. In fact, Dean hasn’t felt any inspiration in months, and the funds from his first major sale aren’t going to pay for his apartment and work studio forever.
Just when Dean can’t afford a single distraction, he gets noticed by homicide detective Jiro Watanabe, and not in a good way. Without warning, Dean is thrust into a world of mystery and murder, when all he wants is for Jiro to ask him out on a date that doesn’t involve the police station.
The art world just got a whole lot more cutthroat.
Pt. 1 ended with two options:
Dean opens the closet door.
Dean leaves it be.
The overwhelming majority of you want to get Dean in trouble and opted for him opening the door! So onward to Pt. 2….
I yanked the closet open.
It took a second to register the body half submerged in a big wash tub full of what smelled like turpentine. But once the reality of the situation kicked in, I screamed.
“Holy mother of God! What the fucking fuck!” I threw the door shut.
My heart was pounding and adrenaline was making my entire body shake. I saw that, right? I saw the dead guy? I wasn’t going through some artist psychosis thing, was I?
I opened the door again and let out another scream.
Yup. The guy was still dead.
“Satan’s goddamn nut-sack!” I slammed it shut a second time, stumbled back several steps, tripped over a broom, and fell to the floor. I ignored the shooting pain from my ass all the way up my spine, and fished my phone free from a pocket.
I called my publicist.
“Dean,” Jeff answered, voice smooth like a glass of excellent whiskey. “Honey. You better be calling me from studio, where you’ve been diligently working on new art. Because so help me if you’re at home in your star-spangled booty shorts, deep into a second carton of ice cream, and crying over your third or fourth re-watch in a row of Love Actually.”
“He— he— the— it’s so dead!” I babbled. “It smells so bad and it’s like— like— oh my God! Human soup!”
Jeff sighed. “How much have you had to drink? Dean, it’s….” he paused, then said, “it’s not even two in the afternoon. On a Tuesday, no less. I know it’s always five o’clock somewhere, but that mentality is usually saved for—“
“Jeff, come save me, there’s a dead man in my water closet!”
The smell— the knowledge that I’d been inhaling human rot— it finally got to me and I lost it. Literally. I turned onto my knees, dropped my phone, and barfed all over the floor.
I heard Jeff sigh loudly from the earpiece. “I’ll be over in fifteen.”
He didn’t believe me!
And fifteen minutes? There was no way I was sticking around here for even another fifteen seconds!
I wiped my mouth on the sleeve of my coat, grabbed my phone, and ran for the door. I threw it open and nearly fell into the hallway in a blind panic to escape my own work studio, but ended up freezing in place.
At the end of the hall, with his back turned to me, was a huge man. I’m talking tall and wide in ways that suggests he was born to crush and grind up his fellow man in like… underground fight groups or something. He was bald, wore dark clothes, had a big plastic drum of what looked like maybe cleaning supplies in one hand, and a gun in the other. I think he might have been listening for sound coming out of any of the other studios rented out on this floor, but when my door opened I saw his posture perk and he started to turn.
I moved back and quickly shut the door again before locking it.
I looked through the peephole and saw the mountain’s shadow before his distorted, fishbowl image appeared before me.
Maybe forty. Huge handlebar mustache. A jagged scar under one eye.
What was he, a mobster?
He gave my door the hairy eyeball before jiggling the knob.
The gun, the gun, the gun, he had a fucking gun!
Was he connected to the dead guy enjoying a bath in his own decomp, or was this a whole unrelated situation of utter shittery?
I heard him swear through the door and try the doorknob once more for good measure.
I was trapped. You know how people say they see their life flash before their eyes?
I saw nothing.
Like a television station that only gets static.
I lunged for a nearby chair and propped it under the knob before taking a step back. I heard Mob-Man Charlie set his bucket down on the floor of the hall and then he slammed his body against the door.
CHOOSE DEAN’S ACTION!
- Dean confronts Mob-Man Charlie.
- Dean hides.
Please leave your choice in the comments below, and I’ll see you in March with Pt. 3!
Life has been pretty great for Sebastian Snow. The Emporium is thriving and his relationship with NYPD homicide detective, Calvin Winter, is everything he’s ever wanted. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, Sebastian’s only cause for concern is whether Calvin should be taken on a romantic date. It’s only when an unknown assailant smashes the Emporium’s window and leaves a peculiar note behind, that all plans get pushed aside in favor of another mystery.
Sebastian is quickly swept up in a series of grisly yet seemingly unrelated murders. The only connection tying the deaths together are curiosities from the lost museum of P.T. Barnum. Despite Calvin’s attempts to keep Sebastian out of the investigation, someone is forcing his hand, and it becomes apparent that the entire charade exists for Sebastian to solve. With each clue that’ll bring him closer to the killer, he’s led deeper into Calvin’s official cases.
It’s more than just Sebastian’s livelihood and relationship on the line—it’s his very life.
She is a reluctant mover and has called many places home in her lifetime. C.S. has lived in New York City, Key West, and Ibaraki, Japan, to name a few. She misses the cleanliness, convenience, and limited edition gachapon of Japan, but she was never very good at riding bikes to get around.
She has an affinity for all things cute and colorful, and a major weakness for toys. C.S. is an avid fan of coffee, reading, and cats. She’s rescued three cats, including one found in a drain pipe in Japan who flew back to the States with her. Zak, Milo, and Kasper do their best on a daily basis to sidetrack her from work.
C.S. Poe can be followed on her website, which also has links to her Goodreads and social media pages. She can also be followed via her e-mail newsletter on the website.