Hello, friends! I’m C.S. Poe and back with another monthly installment of my free, choose your own adventure read, The Murder Collection! If you’re new to the story, check out Parts 1 – 4 here. We last left off with Dean putting his foot in his mouth with the sexy Detective Watanabe. And all of you pretty much wanted him to roll with the outcome, so here we go! And make sure you leave a comment, as your interaction is imperative to the story.
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.
I started laughing.
And it wasn’t little old lady tittering, but full-on, from the gut, laughing.
Watanabe raised an eyebrow as he watched me slowly spiral into insanity. “Oh—kay.”
“Not like paint on you,” I said in between breaths, wiping tears with my free hand. “Because then you’d be naked, which would be good for me and probably bad for you.”
“Are you sure you haven’t been on any drugs, Mr. Stewart?” he asked, voice partially drowned out by the police siren as the car pulled up to the side of the road.
I laughed harder and shook my head. “I wish I had an excuse….”
“Detective?” a uniformed officer asked, recognizing Watanabe as he climbed out of the cruiser.
Watanabe gave me one last cursory glance and then said, “Doc Houdini was here. He took off on foot, heading south. I lost sight of him.”
The officer, beat cop or not, must have known that was serious news, because he got on his remote radio and immediately called for more backup. He motioned to his partner over the roof of the car and the two headed in the direction Watanabe pointed.
I’d managed to control my fit of giggles by then. The manic adrenaline rush was dying away, leaving me exhausted and shivering in Watanabe’s hold. “Can I go home?” I asked him.
“I didn’t do anything,” I protested again, more tired sounding this time. “I’m telling you—”
“A body, yes. Tell me about the body,” he replied.
“It’s in my water closet.”
“You established as much, Mr. Stewart.”
“Can you not call me that? It’s weird.”
“It’s your name, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but Mr. Stewart is my Dad. And he’s fifty, wears socks with his sandals, and makes literally the worst Dad-jokes known to man. I’m twenty-two.”
“And do you wear socks with your sandals?” Watanabe asked dryly.
“As if.” I pointed to my rainbow Dr. Martens.
Watanabe glanced down. “Of course….”
“I’m an artist,” I said quickly. “My studio is up there.” I pointed to the building behind us. “I hadn’t been in for a while…. There was a god-awful smell in the water closet. I opened it up and there was— it— was like—”
Watanabe motioned for me to speed it the hell up.
“The body was congealing in a tub of turpentine!”
His eyes narrowed. “What happened next?”
“I freaked out! I ran for the door, and that’s when I saw the dude, I mean, Charlie— Doc. He had a gun, that’s why I knew something was wrong.”
“What was he doing?”
“He was walking down the hall, carrying what appeared to be cleaning products, maybe? I ran back inside, locked the door, he broke it, then that’s how we met after the fire escape chase.” I motioned between us.
Watanabe’s expression softened around the edges. Slightly. I mean, you’d practically need a magnifying glass to have seen the change, but it was there.
“What did I say?” I asked.
Watanabe didn’t answer. He directed more arriving officers to secure my studio, and I gave them the floor and room number. The street was being blocked off by fast responding police, and now the pedestrians that had originally run from the gunfight, were slowly filtering back to watch the event unfold.
“Detective Watanabe,” an officer said, returning to our side a few moments later from the front door. “The location is secure.”
“Good. Come with me, Mr.— Dean.” Watanabe tugged my sleeve and more or less made me walk back into the building. We took the stairs to my floor. Our steps echoed through the empty stairwell, and when we reached my hall, the murmurs of cops and radios broke the silence.
“I really don’t want to be here,” I whispered.
“It’s been secured. No one is in there.”
“Except the dead man.”
“As someone who’s been around a body or two, I can assure you it won’t hurt you.”
“Obviously you’ve never binge-watched The Walking Dead in the dark by yourself.”
“Don’t worry, darling,” Watanabe murmured, finally sounding amused. “I’m armed.”
We reached my studio, and the stink of paint supplies and rotting flesh hit me hard in the gut again. I kept walking behind Watanabe after he let go of my jacket sleeve, I guess convinced at this point I wouldn’t try to run away. He followed the obvious breadcrumb trail of stink to the closet, where a few other officers lingered.
“You said you hadn’t been in for a while?” Watanabe asked, turning to look at me. His face had softened even more at this point.
“Yeah,” I agreed. Damn, he’s gorgeous….
“How long would you say?”
“Almost three weeks.”
Watanabe glanced over his shoulder at the human soup and then back to me. “Dean?”
A shiver crawled from toes to head when he said my name in a tone that was crazy sexy, even though he probably didn’t intend for it to be. “What?” I asked.
“Are you willing to look at this and tell me if you recognize the person?”
I swallowed hard. “It— still has a face?”
Watanabe actually nodded and said gently, “Only if you can handle it.”
Well shit. Now wasn’t the time for me to chicken out. Not if I wanted Watanabe walking out of my life after this fiasco thinking I was a big baby.
I straightened my posture and raised my chin up. “I’ll look.”
Watanabe stepped aside, placed a hand on my shoulder, and drew me closer to the closet.
CHOOSE DEAN’S ACTION
- Dean recognizes the victim.
- Dean doesn’t know the victim.
Thanks, guys! I’ll see you all again in September!
The Mystery of the Curiosities (audio)
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 brings 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.
C.S. Poe is an author of gay mystery, romance, and paranormal books.
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. is a member of the International Thriller Writers Organization.