Skyler Foxe Mysteries 3.5
Release Date: December 2012
FOXE DEN follows high school English teacher Skyler Foxe and his friends throughout the holidays, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s. Along the way, Skyler gets to inflict his mother on his boyfriend Keith, meets Keith’s parents, and just generally tries to navigate the treacherous waters of a brand new relationship. Unlike the novels, this novella hasn’t any mystery to solve. It’s the sort of stuff that happens between characters once the book cover is closed; a gift of “DVD extras.”
Helen herded the others out of the kitchen and steered them to the family room. “Let’s all take a few minutes to sit down, get everyone a drink, and we’ll relax before dinner.”
The family room had an enormous fireplace, with heavy beams overhead and a few animal heads on the wall. One particular deer was giving Skyler the stink eye. In the corner was a magnificent Christmas tree, with an array of sparkly ornaments and twinkling lights.
Howard handed Skyler his drink and Keith grabbed Skyler and sat him down beside him on the sofa. The boys sat on the floor in front of the X-box, ignoring the adults and drinking Coke out of cans, and Sarah and Van took the sofa across from them.
“Bree not here yet?” asked Keith.
Howard swirled his bourbon. “Toni’s having issues,” he said, using air quotes. “They’ll be here soon.”
“So Skyler,” Helen began after taking a sip of her drink. “Keith told me all about your trouble with the school. I was appalled to hear that you were shot in the line of duty.”
Both twins whipped around to stare at him with wide-open mouths.
“He wasn’t in the line of duty,” said Keith quickly.
“No kidding?” asked Mick. “You were really shot? With a gun?”
It was the last thing Skyler was expecting. He stared at everyone and their concerned expressions and looked helplessly at Keith.
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“Were you there, Uncle Keith?” asked Jon.
“Yes. I was working in the capacity as a Special Agent.”
Skyler looked from one twin to another. “I wasn’t really supposed to be there, but I was trying to bring the bad guy to justice.”
“Wait,” said Sarah. “I’m confused. I thought you were a high school English teacher.”
“Then what in the world were you doing chasing down bad guys and getting shot?”
The twins were still staring at him in wide-eyed wonder. Uncle Keith’s boring teacher boyfriend was suddenly looking mighty interesting. “It’s kind of a long story. I’m just glad Keith was there to save the day. He took down the bad guy.”
“Did you shoot him, Uncle Keith?” asked Jon.
Sarah frowned. “Boys…”
“Yes,” said Skyler, somewhat proud of Keith. “He did. He shot him. He…killed him.”
Skyler looked around. “He had no choice. He would have shot Keith and then finished me off. There was no choice.”
“Then you did the right thing, son,” said Howard.
Keith looked stoic but Skyler could feel the tension in him. Maybe he shouldn’t have said anything. Maybe it hadn’t been Skyler’s place. But he saved Skyler’s life, dammit, and Skyler was grateful and proud of him. “It’s not something Keith takes lightly,” he said in explanation.
“Of course not,” said Howard. He handed Keith his bourbon. “A man with a badge has to make a thousand decisions a day like that.”
“Which is why I gave up that badge once,” said Keith. “But it’s neither here nor there anymore. It’s done.”
The twins still blinked at him. Skyler had the feeling that the English teacher and Uncle Keith’s cool factor just spiked.
They all chatted lightly about their holidays and then Helen announced that dinner was ready. Instead of sitting down to a formal dinner, everyone was invited to get their own bowl of chili and fix it how they liked it. Beers were offered to the grown-ups and then they all returned to the family room for informal eating.
Skyler ate and watched the interaction between Keith and his brother, parents, and sister-in-law. It was all so normal, a bit loud with friendly arguments at times, but mostly relaxed except for the bit of tension in the corner of the room where Skyler the Stranger sat. They tried to include him and he tried not to be a wallflower, but this was definitely not the usual social situation he was used to.
After everyone had had their fill, dishes were cleared and the adults continued chatting. Skyler excused himself to freshen up and went upstairs alone. In the en suite bathroom he looked at himself in the mirror. Hair in place. No chili or stringy cheese on his face. Nothing in his teeth. So far so good. He cupped a hand over his mouth and breathed, getting a whiff of his onion breath. Better brush my teeth. He got his kit from his luggage in the guest room and returned to the bathroom. He brushed his teeth, refreshed his cologne, straightened his hair, and stared at his reflection. “You have to go back down there. They’re nice people. They made Keith, after all.”
Reluctantly, he turned off the light and went to the top of the stairs. But as he descended he overheard the conversation below and slowed on the steps, finally stopping.
“He’s pretty young, isn’t he, Keith?” The voice of Sarah, his sister-in-law. “I mean, he’s young enough to be our son.”
“If you were a mother at fifteen,” grumbled Keith.
“Young and blond,” said Van, laughing. “That’s how he likes ’em.”
“Van!” said Helen.
“Come on, Mom. Did you forget his last two boyfriends?” He laughed anew. “Face it, bro. You’re a sucker for a pretty blond.”
Skyler thought he heard Howard snorting.
“Look, you guys, Skyler is a special person,” said Keith. “It doesn’t matter to me how old he is. Or how blond…dipshit.”
Sarah’s shadow moved across the room. Skyler pressed himself against the far bannister so he wouldn’t be seen. “So is it serious?” she asked. “Is this ‘the one’?”
“They’re always ‘the one’,” said Van.
“That’s not true,” said his mom. “Keith is responsible. He isn’t a playboy. Just like you and Bree. After all, how many girlfriends did you have, Van? As I recall, things got pretty serious with you and Sarah early on. But Keith. I have to agree that Skyler does seem a bit young, though very charming. Are you in love with him?”
The room suddenly got quiet. Skyler held his breath. Keith wasn’t talking loud enough. All Skyler could hear was soft murmuring voices. He leaned over the railing, straining to hear. Farther…farther…
“Who are you?”
Skyler jolted, nearly going over the side. Heart racing, he grabbed the railing and turned. A little girl, about eleven or twelve, had poked him and looked up at him from the step below his.
He shushed her and took her arm, leading her softly down the stairs and around the corner, away from the gossiping adults. “I’m Skyler,” he said quietly. “Are you Toni?”
“Yeah.” She had brown, stringy hair. One ear bud was in her left ear and the other dangled over her Adventure Time t-shirt. “You’re Uncle Keith’s ‘special friend’,” she said, using air quotes. “Like I don’t know what that means. Do I have to call you ‘Uncle Skyler’?”
“Um…I don’t think so.”
“Good. Are you a teacher, too?”
“Yup. High school English Literature.”
“It’s not. What grade are you in?”
“Why do grown-ups always ask that? Like it’s the most important thing to me?”
“All right. What is the most important thing to you?”
She shrugged with her whole body.
“Right. That’s why we ask that.”
She smirked and then turned away, looking past the stairs toward the family room. “My mom’s in there. She’s Uncle Keith’s sister. It’s all boring.”
“Why don’t’ you play X-box with your cousins?”
“I don’t like the games they play.”
They stood awkwardly for a moment until Skyler spotted her ear buds again. “What are you listening to?”
“Oh cool. I like them.”
“You do not.”
“I do, too. I love ‘Turn On Me’.”
Her eyes widened. She grabbed her iPhone in her pocket. “I have that. Want to listen with me?”
“Yeah.” She found the song in her phone and cued it up. She offered the other ear bud and Skyler put one knee to the floor, his head near hers, and popped the ear bud in his ear to listen to the song.
Until someone tapped him on the shoulder.
Now take a look-see at the latest In the series.
Skyler Foxe Mysteries #5
Release Date: November 2014
Skyler and his friends go to Palm Springs for the annual White Party and find murder!
Out and proud high school English teacher Skyler Foxe and his posse of friends go to the annual Palm Springs White Party for a weekend of fun, frivolity, and luscious men. But there are boy troubles of all kinds ahead. Skyler's boyfriend and high school coach Keith Fletcher has to endure an embarrassing number of Skyler's former hook-ups, one of the SFC might be going solo, Skyler encounters unexpected and unwelcome participants at the party, and there's a murder on the dance floor, literally at Skyler's feet! Both Skyler and Keith are drawn into investigating more than murder when the FBI asks Skyler to do the unthinkable.
The drumming and chanting went on and on without stopping. That's fine, he thought as he made his way across the compound. It might help mask his disappearance. Not that anyone had yet seen him up close, and that was fine, too. With any luck, he'd be out of there by tonight anyway.
The distant blaring lights from the city lit the desert, glowing as bright as a full moon along the edges of whispering dunes and scrub. The cities of the desert sprawled away from him, with their twinkling lights; an island in an otherwise dark desert sea. The air smelled of the soft scent of wildflowers and the pungent aroma of creosote. He even heard the faint squeak of a fluttering bat overhead, and he turned toward the sky, searching for it amid the scant stars, chased away by the city glow, even way out there.
He made it to the Quonset hut and opened the door carefully. Eyes adjusting to the dark, he saw that all was clear and then slipped inside.
Time was of the essence now. He already felt he had outstayed his welcome. He couldn't chance another trip here, not this close to zero hour.
He found a locked door in the barn-like space and got his hopes up that it would be here and then this darned thing would be over. Not that he hadn't enjoyed it, thinking of the tall Indian posing as his lover. But he knew the man was harboring a secret, and it made him nervous. The man was made of secrets, but it hadn't accounted for the uneasy feeling in his gut. They'd argued about it once, as if they were already lovers, but the man seemed as if he had wanted to tell him something, confide. It would have to wait.
The rest of it was getting dicey. It had that feel to it, as if it were coming to a close very shortly. But it also had the feeling of walking on the edge of a razor. Castro had spied him once or twice across the cavernous hall, but hadn't deigned yet to talk to him. His cadre of thugs kept all comers at a safe distance. And that was fine, too. For now.
He used his pocket tools to quickly jimmy the lock and edged inside. His Maglite was in his hand, but he used it sparingly. He didn't want the light to shine from under the storeroom door. Pushing back the damp blond hair from his forehead, he stared at the stacked boxes, thinking.
This wasn't it. It wasn't the place.
"Damn!" He barely breathed it. This wasn't it. Because that would have been too easy.
The storeroom door opened suddenly. He froze. A hulking shape appeared in the shadowy doorway before the door quickly shut again.
"Are you in here?" whispered the voice of the tall Native American.
He sighed in relief, his hand itching for his Glock tucked in the back of his pants. "Shit, you gave me a heart attack."
The tall man moved closer into the room, almost up against him. He smelled his scent unsullied by cologne, a sharp masculine scent. The tall man, John Joseph, was gay, out and proud. He exuded confidence, but it was dangerous falling into that trap. The man didn't know, couldn't know all the secrets surrounding him. "I heard some talk at the powwow," said John Joseph. "Something I don't think I was supposed to hear. I think they might be moving them soon."
"And we don't even know when and where," said the shorter blond man.
"Soon. We really have to be on alert. You'll have to be ready to go. Have you found anything here?"
"No. I don't see us getting many more chances." He looked around and felt the walls close in. Time was slipping away, and it was getting far too dangerous. "Look, John Joseph. You've been a great help. But I don't think it's fair to involve you much further in this. I don't know how much longer I can protect you."
The Indian laughed. "You protect me? Look at me." He patted his flanks, looking down at the blond man. "I think I can protect myself."
He rolled his eyes. "Who's got the training? Never mind. I'm pretty sure our cover's about to be blown."
"Speaking of blown..."
He jerked his head toward the taller man. They'd been dancing around it. But nothing could be done when they were surrounded by so much danger and while they were on the job.
But boy, had he wanted to.
He looked down at his shoes, feeling his face heat up. "How about when this is over?"
John Joseph stepped closer. "When will that be?"
"Soon. Trust me. I can feel that we're getting close. We'd better—"
The door opened again. The light flicked on and the men in the doorway stopped.
Now the walls really were closing in.
Haley Walsh tried acting, but decided the actor’s life was not for her. Instead, she became a successful graphic designer in Los Angeles, her hometown. After fifteen years of burning money in the ’80s and early ’90s, she retired from the graphics industry and turned her interests toward writing. She became a freelance newspaper reporter, wrote articles for quirky magazines, published award-winning short stories, and now writes an acclaimed gay mystery series, the Skyler Foxe Mysteries. She’s lived all her life in southern California, sampling wines and chomping chocolate. Yeah, it’s a living.
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