Publisher: Pride Publishing
Author: Angel Martinez
Cover Artist: Emmy Ellis
Format: ebook (and print in Offbeat Crimes: Volume 1)
Release Date: General release 9/20/16
Vikash Soren, the perfect police officer except for his odd paranormal ability, never seems to lose his temper. Always serene and competent, he’s taken on the role of mediator in a squad room full of misfits. But on the inside, he’s a mess. Unable to tell his police partner that he loves him, Vikash struggles silently, terrified of losing Kyle as a lover, partner and friend.
But life in the 77th Precinct doesn’t leave much room for internal reflection. A confrontation with a stick-throwing tumbleweed in Fairmount Park leads to bizarre consequences involving pill bugs, statues and…time travel? If Vikash manages to survive the week and stay in one point in time, he might be able to address normal things like relationship problems. He just needs Kyle to have a little more patience. Maybe a few centuries’ worth.
Offbeat Crimes Series Info:
Every region has them, but no police department talks about them—the weird crimes, the encounters with creatures out of nightmares. The 77th Precincts exist in certain cities to handle paranormal crime and containment, usually staffed with experienced officers exhibiting psychic abilities.
In Philadelphia, through an odd mix of budget issues and circumstance, the 77th is manned entirely by officers with bizarre or severely limited psychic talents. The firestarter who can’t get a spark when it’s humid. The vampire who can’t drink whole blood. These are the stories of the misfits, the outcasts from even the strangeness of the paranormal community. Call them freaks, but they’re police officers first, serving and protecting, even if their methods aren’t always normal procedure.
Four inches of snow had fallen the night before, coating the browns and greens of the park in a uniform layer of white, softening the aggressive lines of statue plinths, hiding the imperfections that the spring thaw would reveal in shameless stripper fashion. Bright winter sun plucked golden sparks in Kyle’s red hair. Kyle Monroe, with his once-broken nose and his burn-scarred hands, who couldn’t have been more beautiful to Vikash if angels had burnished his skin.
I’m in love with him. I’m in love with my partner and I can’t tell him. Don’t dare tell him.
For Kyle, being with a man wasn’t a big deal. Nothing relationship-wise seemed to be with him. As far as Vikash could tell, Kyle had never had a serious, long-term boyfriend. While Vikash? He had always struggled—to explain to his family that he was bi, to re-explain that fact constantly to every significant other he ever had, to hide who he was at work with meticulous care. Bad enough to be a gay cop, but an out bisexual cop? It would be like tossing a chocolate unicorn in a locked room full of starved squirrels. Picked apart bit by bit until there was nothing but crumbs.
Every time his reserve, his well-hidden anxiety, his inability to pick a side—as his last girlfriend had put it—had scuttled his relationships. They had seen it as a lack of commitment, as if his bisexuality were an automatic gateway to infidelity and promiscuity. Kyle wasn’t asking him to change. Kyle at least said he understood, but the restlessness had begun, the irritation with the fact that he simply couldn’t be open and out in public, that he had to keep work and home life in hermetically sealed boxes. It wouldn’t be long now before Kyle reached his limit.
Vikash had insisted they each keep their own apartments. He insisted they come to work separately. He was the one who twitched away when Kyle tried to take his hand across a restaurant table. Self-sabotage? Probably. He was good at that. Though this time it was a choice he didn’t want to make between relationship and career, and the longer he avoided facing that choice, the more he guaranteed spectacular and messy relationship failure.
When Kyle turned onto the normally peaceful, tree-lined avenue of Mount Pleasant Drive, there couldn’t be any doubt they were heading in the right direction. Small clusters of screaming people rushed past their squad car, one man nearly running straight into Vance’s bumper directly behind them.
In the absence of tourists and park-goers, the circular drive in front of the mansion proper was deathly quiet. The main house of white trimmed in red brick with its matching outbuildings crouched in a forlorn huddle against the snow, fancy teacakes lost in an explosion of white icing. The deceptively peaceful scene sent a shiver up Vikash’s back. Unless the stampeding crowd had all reached the same sudden painful epiphany about the meaninglessness of existence and had run off screaming in a mass existential panic, something was lurking nearby.
Vikash scanned the grounds as he got out of the car, unwilling to make a move in any direction yet.
“It’s quiet. Too quiet,” Kyle muttered the old movie cliché and Vikash had to stifle a nervous snicker.
“We’re at about fifty percent humidity.” Jeff Gatling came around the car to Vikash’s side. “Vance? Got spark?”
Luckily, Vance was intent on the hunt and not on tormenting Kyle. He held up a hand, fingers pointed skyward. Smoke curled up, then a dark puff erupted before flames danced over his fingertips. “Oh, yeah. We got spark. Bring it on.”
“Contain if we can,” Jeff admonished softly. “Incinerate as a last resort. You hear me, Vance?”
His partner grumbled, but joined them as they all retrieved nets and bags from their squad cars. Movement caught the edge of Vikash’s sight. He turned slowly and spotted a quick flash of something vanishing behind the outbuilding on the left.
“There.” He pointed, moving slowly but deliberately across the snow.
“Did you see it, Kash? How big?” Kyle moved out a few feet to the left, in case their culprit decided to flee.
Vikash shook his head. “Didn’t see enough.”
The snow was new enough not to have a crunch to it yet, muffling their steps as they worked their way around the building, Vikash and Kyle to the left, Jeff and Vance to the right. When the thing broke cover, it did so with alarming speed, barreling from behind the building and knocking Kyle to the ground before rolling over him.
“Kyle?” Vikash called, even as he tried to herd the thing back to Jeff and Vance.
“’M all right.”
While Vikash wasn’t convinced, he couldn’t go back to check on his partner yet. Seven feet in diameter, the bizarre apparition that had caused a stampede appeared to be a giant ball of horticultural debris. It rolled and bounced toward the river, sticks, dried leaves and vines all tangled and prickling unevenly along its surface like a bad haircut. With his longer legs, Vikash outdistanced his colleagues easily and so was directly in the line of fire when the tumbleweed of madness stopped abruptly, shook itself, and hurled a mass of stick missiles his way. He dove to the side, his jacket taking the brunt of the assault. Behind him, he heard a sharp cry of pain.
The tumbleweed rustled again, apparently readying a second volley. Vikash covered his head and risked a glance back at Jeff, sprawled on the ground with a two-inch diameter stick embedded in his shoulder.
Vance rose from where he had knelt beside his partner, his face scarlet as he bellowed, “Fucking freakazoid!”
Flames shot from his fingers when he flung out one arm then the other, ten-foot gouts of flame that threatened to set the trees on fire as Vance raced toward the tumbleweed. With smoke rising from several fire strikes, the creature fled in erratic bounces across Kelly Drive until it reached the Playing Angels sculpture beside the river. For a moment, Vikash was afraid it would leap into the river, but it cowered behind the three horn-playing angels on their tall plinths, dodging from one to another as Vance kept up his barrage.
“Vance!” Jeff called, struggling to sit up. “Knock it off! Containment!”
But Vance ignored him, muttering a stream of invectives about freaks firing on law enforcement. While sometimes it could be a tough call dealing with nonhuman lawbreakers, their standing orders were to detain unless the creature posed an imminent threat. To Vikash at least, it was clear that the tumbleweed was more frightened than malicious. He slammed into Vance, tackling him into the snow beneath the right-hand angel while Kyle tried to beat out the spreading flames with his jacket.
Even with blood spreading down his blue uniform shirt, Jeff joined the fire suppression effort, though it seemed hopeless. The flames popped and snapped, and a terrible, frightened wailing came from the center of the tumbleweed.
The unlikely black sheep of an ivory tower intellectual family, Angel Martinez has managed to make her way through life reasonably unscathed. Despite a wildly misspent youth, she snagged a degree in English Lit, married once and did it right the first time, (same husband for almost twenty-four years) gave birth to one amazing son, (now in college) and realized at some point that she could get paid for writing.
Published since 2006, Angel’s cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You’ll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don’t expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.
She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.