Monday, August 29, 2011

The Bar Watcher excerpt by Dorien Grey

In The Bar Watcher by Dorien Grey, the manager of an elite local bath is stabbed to death, and attorney Glen O’Banyon hires Dick Hardesty to check into it. The motive for the murder isn’t hard to figure—Comstock was a jerk of the first order. In fact, the list of people who might have wanted him dead might be larger than the club’s membership roster. Then, two obnoxious bar hoppers die in an apparent accident that turns out to be another murder, and when a third unpleasant individual meets an untimely demise, Dick begins to see a sinister pattern. All of the victims, prior to their deaths, had behaved badly in one of the local bars. Is someone on a mission to rid the world of people behaving badly?

The release of this new edition of The Bar Watcher is the first of what will be redesigned editions of the entire Dick Hardesty series previously published by GLB Publishing.

The Bar Watcher
Zumaya Boundless (July 27, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1934841641
ISBN-13: 978-1934841648



One of the reasons I became a private investigator was because I like puzzles, and every case is like working a jigsaw puzzle without the picture on the box. Of course, the bulk of any private investigator’s cases are like the puzzles you see for kids on the little table in dentists’ office waiting rooms—five pieces and there’s the bunny. But every now and then you get one that is more like one of those 1,500-piece reproductions of a Bosch or Breughel painting—a real challenge. They drive me crazy sometimes, but when I finally put the last couple of pieces together, there’s a sense of satisfaction that’s hard to describe, or match.

And almost always the people you’re looking for are right there in the picture, though you don’t recognize them until the puzzle’s completed. And from time to time, the picture you think you’re working on isn’t the one you end up seeing.

Now, take the case of the bar watcher….

* * *

It’s what I refer to now as my “Slut Phase.” My monogamous five year relationship with Chris had broken up some time ago, and I decided it was about time I let the other guys spend their time looking for “Mr. Right”–I’d concentrate on Mr. Right Now. Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t whittle a notch in the bedpost after every trick, or I’d have ended up sleeping on a mound of wood shavings.

When I wasn’t pursuing research for a book I thought about writing on “101 Fun Things to Do With a Penis,” I was actually making some progress in that part of my life which did not involve lying down. I’d obtained my private investigator license late the year before, and was struggling to make ends meet.

Business was beginning to improve, though slowly, thanks to a solid working relationship I had with members of the local gay Bar Guild, for whom I’d done a couple favors prior to taking out my license. Referrals from Guild members were in fact the source of much of my business. And the fact that there weren’t exactly a lot of gay private investigators to choose from also helped, I’m sure. I’d rented a small office in one of the city’s older commercial buildings, with an address far more impressive than the building itself.

If I’d started out with any illusions that being a private investigator might be a pretty exciting job, reality kicked me in the ass in short order. Lots and lots of checking on possibly (and too often definitely) wandering lovers, one or two incidences of blackmail, a case of embezzlement involving the business manager of a gay resort—that sort of thing; and lots of sitting around waiting for the next client.

Oh, yeah…and I’d given up smoking. Cold turkey. That was a hell of a lot harder than any case I’d had, or was likely ever to have. So I was relieved when the phone rang just as I was trying to figure out a 10-letter word for “reclusive or brutish person” in the paper’s crossword puzzle (don’t bother: it’s “troglodyte”).

“Hardesty Investigations,” I said, in my professional, half-octave-lower-than-normal voice.

“Hardesty: this is Barry Comstock. Jay Mason of the Bar Guild referred you to me.”

“Well, thanks for calling, Mr. Comstock,” I said, making a mental note to thank Jay as well. “How can I help you?”

“I own Rage…you’re familiar with it?”

Rage was the city’s hottest bathhouse. I knew it.

“Of course,” I said, then waited for him to continue.

“We’ve got ourselves a problem, and while I think it’s a bunch of bullshit, they tell me you might be able to help resolve it.”

“Is it anything you can mention on the phone, or…?”

“No; definitely not.”

“I understand,“ I said—but of course I didn’t. “Did you want to come to my office, or…”

“No, you come over here. I’ve got a business to run and I can’t just be taking off.”

Like I wasn’t busy. Well, okay, I wasn’t, but I didn’t like his ‘busier than thou’ attitude.

“No problem. I could be there in around an hour, if that would be all right. I have a client coming in a little later this afternoon.” I lied, but he didn’t have to know that.

“Good,” he said. “I don’t see your name on our members list, but I might have missed it..”

Actually, he hadn’t—I wasn’t a member. Baths are fine, but they’re not my thing. I like to have a few words come out of my mouth before putting something in, and the baths aren’t exactly the place guys go for complex conversations like “Hi. My name is…”.

“I know how to find it,” I said. “I’ll see you in an hour, then.”

He hung up without saying “goodbye.”

Though I’d never met Barry Comstock, I’d seen him at a distance a couple of times in the more trendy bars and discos, always accompanied by two or three different good-looking guys whom he seemed to enjoy treating like dirt. He had a reputation as a wheeler-dealer in the rapidly growing gay business community. A former porn star, he’d opened Rage about eight months earlier. He was noted for having a monumental schlong, and an ego to match. I’d seen some of his movies—I think I still have a copy of one of his better ones: “Comstock’s Load.” He was also rumored to have the first nickel he ever made, so I imagined he would not be calling on me unless it was something pretty important.

* * *

Rage was located in what local gays were beginning to refer to as The Central—sort of an homage to San Francisco’s Castro district—and about a half a block off Beech, the main gay thoroughfare. No ground floor windows; just a dark blue canopy with “Rage” in white script, over a matching blue entry door. Just as I reached for the handle, the door swung open and a drop-dead gorgeous hunk exited carrying his gym bag and a satisfied smile. Our eyes locked for a moment, and he gave me a broad wink. “Have fun,” he said.

Before I had a chance to reconsider my opinion of baths, I was inside the small lobby.

A blond Adonis stood behind the registration window wearing a “Rage” tee shirt so tight I thought at first it had been spray painted on his bare chest. Yeah, I thought, maybe I should reconsider…

“Your card?” the blond said.

“I’m not a member,” I said. “I’ve got an appointment with Barry Comstock. The name’s Hardesty.”

The blond picked up a phone out of sight below the window, said something I couldn’t hear, then hung up the phone and nodded toward the only door leading to the interior from the lobby. “First door to your left,” he said, and pressed an unseen buzzer which opened the lobby inner door.

“Thanks,” I said, and passed through it into a short hallway. The first door on the left said simply “Private” and I knocked.

“Come in,” a voice said, and I did.

The room was large and windowless, paneled in what appeared to be dark oak. It apparently couldn’t decide whether its function was to impress or to be a working office, and therefore didn’t quite fit either category. There were several small framed photos on one wall, apparently of Comstock with various celebrities, a large painting of a nude male torso—undoubtedly Comstock himself—on a side wall next to a door, a couple file cabinets, a worktable with a copy machine and a typewriter, a couple of comfortable and expensive looking leather chairs and a large, equally expensive looking desk, behind which sat Barry Comstock, slitting open a stack of mail with a very wicked looking letter opener.

I mentioned that Barry Comstock had been a porn star, but it was obvious that he was no longer in his 20s—or, despite valiant efforts on his part, even his 30s. His face had that stretched-too-tight look that indicated a plastic surgeon’s handiwork. In some odd way, he was rather like the room itself. He’d have been considerably more attractive if he’d just left himself alone.

He did not get up and so I deliberately walked over to the desk and extended my hand, which he had to put down the letter opener and lean forward to take.

“Dick Hardesty, Mr. Comstock. What can I do for you?”

He motioned me to a chair and resumed opening the mail, shifting his glance back and forth between the mail and me.

“We’ve had some…well, what my partners consider to be threats. I think they’re bullshit, but they insisted I look into it. Frankly, I don’t have the time, which is why I called you.”

“What kind of threats?”

Comstock finished opening the mail, set the opener aside again, and leaned back in his chair. “Oh, we’ve been getting bitch letters since we opened...most of them have tapered off lately.”

“What kind of ‘bitch letters’?”

Comstock gave a slight sneer. “About our membership policy.”

“And your membership policy is…?” Actually, I had a pretty good idea from what I’d been hearing on the street, but I wanted to hear him spell it out. He looked at me with a mixture of disdain and surprise.

“Which is that this is a place where hot young guys come to meet other hot young guys. We don’t let fats, or old farts in. If you’re fat, or bald, or old, or ugly you can go someplace else.”

So much for my buying stock in the Barry Comstock School of Charm, I thought. This guy was really starting to piss me off.
To purchase, click here for information on Dorien's Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs


Victor J. Banis said...

Oh, that is too wonderful - and what could I expect from Dorien if not wonderful - and, missing from a lot of writing today - style.

Good on you, Dorien

C. Zampa said...

OMG, I love the voice in this, Dorien!

I love this part: "And almost always the people you’re looking for are right there in the picture, though you don’t recognize them until the puzzle’s completed."

Love the way the story begins, love the snappy monologue and dialogue, and rolled over laughing at "101 Fun Things to Do With a Penis.' LOL!!

Oh, this does promise to be delicious! I am sold.

JerryR said...

Congrats on re release Dorien. Fab story idea and excerpt. Can't wait to read the story.

Jardonn Smith said...

Sure do like your direct style. Just enough description to put me in Dick's shoes and walk briskly. Thank you Dorien and Eric.