The Ninth Man (A Dick Hardesty Mystery, #2) (paperback) by Dorien Grey

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ISBN: 9781611877977
Pages: 300

Dick Hardesty is hired to investigate the mysterious death of a client’s lover. The police assume the death is drug related. In the course of his investigation Dick learns of eight similar deaths, all seemingly unrelated. The victims had nothing in common other than being gay, and all dying the same way. The police, to whom the deaths of “perverts” means very little, conclude that a serial killer is randomly killing gays, but Dick disagrees and believes that what tied the men together will lead to their killer.


It was hotter than hell—the air conditioner hadn’t worked since the Titanic went down. So, I was in no mood for the bleached-blond queen who came swishing across the room toward me after making an entrance that made me wonder whatever happened to Loretta Young.

There were times when I almost wished I had a few straight clients, and this was one of those times. Still, I told myself, it isn’t the principle of the thing, it’s the money.

I stood up and extended my hand. As I expected, the proffered appendage was limp and vaguely clammy.

“Mr. Rholfing.” I made it a statement, not a question. Clients, I’ve found, expect you to be decisive. Authoritative. Butch. It’s bullshit, but it works.

“Yes, Mr. Hardesty.” Jesus, he sounded as nelly as he looked. “I’m so glad you could see me.” I felt his eyes giving my entire body a radar scan. He was wearing one of those cloying perfumes/colognes that emanate an almost visible fog around the wearer.

“Have a chair,” I said, indicating the one that would have been upwind if there’d been any movement of air through the open window, which there wasn’t.

I sat down behind my desk and watched as Rholfing fluttered down, with considerable butt-wiggling, and immediately crossed his legs at the knee. He was dressed in perma-starched white with a flaming-yellow ascot that missed his hair color by about eight shades. He looked like a butter pecan ice cream cone with delusions of grandeur.

After the talcum had settled, I sat back in my chair and forced myself to stare directly at my prospective client, mentally picturing a maraschino cherry and some chopped nuts atop the carefully coifed curls.

Rholfing leaned forward, crossing his wrists on his crossed knees, and said, “Someone has killed my lover.”

Why me, Lord? Why do I get all the cracked marbles?

We stared at one another in silence for a moment or two until I finally managed to remind myself that that’s what I’m in business for: to solve other people’s mysteries.

“Any idea who?” I asked.

“How should I know?” he said, exasperated, his manicured hands fluttering up a short distance from his knees, only to settle back, studiedly.

“Well, at the risk of sounding a bit like a B-movie,” I said, “isn’t this a matter for the police?”

Rholfing stared at me as though I’d just farted in church.

“The police all but said that he committed suicide. The police,” he said finally, “eat shit. Somebody killed him.”

The thought flashed through my mind that anyone sharing an evening, let alone a life, with the character in front of me might well be a candidate for suicide. “Exactly what makes you think he was murdered?” I asked, choosing not to get into a long discussion of the merits and flaws of law enforcement.

“Bobby was twenty-seven years old, healthy as a horse—hung like one, too—and never had a sick day in his life, unless you count hangovers. Personally, I don’t. And all of a sudden, he’s dead in some cheap, tacky hotel room without a mark on him and the police think it was suicide!”

“I assume there was an autopsy,” I said. “What did they say about that?”

“Oh, they said several things, none of which a lady cares to repeat. The gist of it was that while it was perfectly all right for a fruit like me to come down to the morgue to identify the body, since I was neither a blood relative nor his legal guardian, I had no right whatsoever to any information other than that he’s dead—which any fool could see, with him lying there on that fucking slab!”

“And that was it?”

Rholfing took a small white handkerchief from his shoulder bag and dabbed at the corners of his mouth. He then carefully folded it, returned it to the bag, zipped the bag shut, and re-creased the already razor-sharp crease in his trousers with thumb and forefinger before finally re-meeting my gaze.

“Not quite,” he said. “Two of the burly cretins took me into a small room and subtly asked me what my experience had been with poisons. Poisons! Me! I was tempted to tell them to drop by some afternoon for tea and I’d see what I could do, but I’d just had the fumigators in. Me! Lucretia Borgia! Can you imagine?”

As a matter of fact, I could.

“Now, I may be a fairy,” he continued, smoothing down the back of his hair with one hand, “but I certainly am not stupid! Their refusing to tell me how he died in one breath and asking me about poisons in the next was about as subtle as a lighted match on the Hindenburg.

“Bobby was murdered. There’s no question about it. And knowing how the police in this city feel about faggots, the only way anyone is going to find out who killed Bobby is for me to hire you. You come…” He gave me a smile I’m sure he meant to be disarming, but came across outright lecherous. “…very highly recommended.”

“Thanks,” I said, awkwardly. I never did learn how to accept compliments very well—even those without hooks in them.


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