At the gala opening of a new library filled with homosexual writings collected by the late Charles Burrows, known for both his taste in writing, as well as his eccentricity, Dick Hardesty and his partner Jonathan are enjoying a rare night out since four-year-old Joshua joined their household. The evening takes an abrupt turn when cataloger Taylor Cates is found dead at the bottom of a flight of stairs in the library. The library foundation enlists Hardesty’s help in determining the truth of what happened—accident, or something more—which leads Dick to opponents of the creation of the library, and into the world of a long-dead, secretly gay writer, whose remaining family is determined to conceal his sexual orientation.
“Quite a crowd,” Jared observed with a slight gesture of his glass to indicate the entire room.
I nodded. “Yeah, the cream of the crop. I imagine just about everybody who is anybody in the gay community is here, or will be before the evening’s over. Where are the Burrows heirs?”
Jake gave a heads up nod in the direction of a large cluster of people near the other bar across from us. “They’re the two in the tuxes.”
Jonathan, who had rejoined us, handed me my drink and said, “See? I told you!”
“You’re right,” I said, “two hundred people, two tuxes. You wanna go home and change?”
He reached over and grabbed my ass, giving it a quick but painful squeeze.
“And look!” he said excitedly, indicating a tall, handsome man about 40 with salt-and-pepper hair, standing in another group not far from the Burrows heirs. “There’s Evan Knight! I recognize him from his books!” Definitely looked like an author to me. “Can we go meet him?”
“Sure,” I said. “But let’s wait a bit. He’s obviously busy now.”
“Well, yeah,” Jonathan said a bit impatiently, “but I’ll bet he’ll be busy all night. He’s a famous author.”
“Okay, okay,” I said. “Let me see if I can get Glen to introduce you.”
“Us,” Jonathan corrected. “Us. Don’t you want to meet him, too?”
Frankly, my one previous run-in with a famous author had not been a particularly pleasant experience. But that was then and this was now, so… “Sure,” I said.
We all made our way over to the buffet table, and were joined on the way by Tim and Phil, both looking as though they’d stepped off a magazine cover. It never ceased to amaze me how much Phil had changed from the day I first met him when he hustled me at Hughie’s. He was a diamond in the rough even then, and he’d polished up nicely. And I don’t know what there is about a large group of good-looking guys dressed to the nines that raised their sex appeal through the roof.
I kept watching for Glen O’Banyon, but only caught fleeting glimpses of him as he moved from group to group. Our own little group, brought to full company strength by the arrival of Mario and Bob, was having a great time talking among ourselves as though we never saw each other—and I realized again that we really hadn’t been all together very often since Joshua arrived.
“I suppose we should go mingle,” Jake said after another round of drinks. “I for one am not above mixing business with pleasure, and there are a couple people here I really should talk to.” We all agreed, and drifted off in different directions.
“There’s Mr. O’Banyon,” Jonathan said, gesturing toward one of the bars. “And he’s with Mr. Knight!” He immediately grabbed my free hand and pulled me toward them. I needed another drink, anyway.
“Hi, Mr. O’Banyon,” Jonathan said a little breathlessly as we reached the bar.
O’Banyon grinned. “Hi, Jonathan, hi, Dick.”
We shook hands, and he turned to Evan Knight, who was looking at Jonathan with a bemused smile that I thought had just a touch of the predator in it.
“I don’t think you know Evan Knight,” O’Banyon continued. “Evan, this is Dick Hardesty and his partner, Jonathan…” He hesitated and I realized he might never have heard Jonathan’s last name.
“Quinlan,” Jonathan added quickly, extending his hand. “I’m a huge fan, Mr. Knight—I’ve read every one of your books.”
“That’s very nice of you to say, Jonathan,” Knight said, taking Jonathan’s hand. “And it’s ‘Evan,’ please.” He cocked an eyebrow and studied Jonathan’s face. “You look familiar,” he said. “Have we met?”
I’d have thought a writer would be able to come up with a little more original line than that one.
Jonathan shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
After another slow scan of Jonathan’s face, he reluctantly released Jonathan’s hand and extended his hand to me. “Nice to meet you, Dick.”
I started to say something when one of the tuxedo-wearers, looking singularly unhappy, hurried over and whispered something in O’Banyon’s ear. O’Banyon’s eyebrows rose, then dropped into a frown. The tuxedo moved off quickly, toward the front steps.
“Something wrong?” I asked.
“I’m afraid so,” he said.
I didn’t know whether I should ask or not, but I didn’t have to.
“It seems we have a body in the basement,” he said.