Monday, January 28, 2019

Monday's Mysterious Mayhem: The Ghost Had an Early Check-Out by Josh Lanyon

To live and draw in L.A.

Now living in Los Angeles with former navy SEAL Nick Reno, artist Perry Foster comes to the rescue of elderly and eccentric Horace Daly, the legendary film star of such horror classics as Why Won’t You Die, My Darling?

Horace owns the famous, but now run-down, Hollywood hotel Angels Rest, rumored to be haunted. But as far as Perry can tell, the scariest thing about Angels Rest is the cast of crazy tenants--one of whom seems determined to bring down the final curtain on Horace--and anyone else who gets in the way.

When Perry Foster set out to do some renderings of the run-down Hollywood Hotel, Angels Rest, he never expected to come to a stranger's rescue but when he heard the screams he went to investigate.  When he returns home to find his boyfriend back early from  his own investigation he talks Nick into going with him back to Angels Rest where a small cast of eccentric tenants make for an interesting weekend.  Will Perry and Nick discover who or what is after Horace, the legendary horror actor before the final curtain falls for the last time?

It has been four years since I read The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks where Perry and Nick meet and I normally would have re-read book one before starting The Ghost had an Early Check-Out to "refresh my memory" but I didn't and you know what?  I remember everything of the boys that I fell for ages ago.  Now I don't want to say too much about the plot since this is a mystery and so many points can be important and telling but I will say I loved every eccentric and crazy moment of Early Check-Out.

The occupants of Angels Rest is definitely a cast of characters that made Perry and Nick's "case" intriguing.  I wanted to laugh, scream, and even pull my hair out at times.  You know what Perry ran into when he chased after Horace's screams and yet there is always that inkling of doubt to just what it all meant and who was really behind it.  Its these moments where doubt and certainty war within the reader that make this mystery standout and kept me guessing.

So often in series, the second entry can be more about the couple finding their footing and keeping the relationship moving forward but with Early Check-Out that doesn't enter into it.  Sure there are fleeting moments of internal "What have I got myself into?" for the pair but it really doesn't become a factor of the story and I very much appreciated that element.    I hope there will be more of Perry and Nick in the future because they are a pair that is not getting old anytime soon.

The Ghost had an Early Check-Out is definitely a story with present day attitudes and yet its got just enough of a classic feel that I expected the likes of Humphrey Bogart or Dick Powell to turn up asking questions with their own brand of sarcastic wit.  Definitely a delightful blend of mayhem and fun to make this a winning read.


It was after eleven by the time Nick got home.

The apartment was dark and silent. It smelled of paint and linseed oil, which was how home smelled now. It would not smell like cooking because Perry did not bother to cook when Nick was not around for meals. It was a question as to whether he even bothered to eat.

Nick quietly set his bag down and turned on the living room light. God it was good to be back. He looked around approvingly. The room was comfortably furnished. His old blue sofa was positioned against one wall. Two small end tables they’d picked up at a Goodwill store sat at either end. The tables were topped with matching alabaster lamps that Perry assured him were terrific finds. Maybe. Nick had doubts about the antiquated wiring, but Perry loved them, so he’d bought the lamps. Nick’s framed seascape hung on the opposite wall. A tall mahogany bookshelf, another Goodwill find, held Perry’s paperbacks and his vintage clock. They were using an old trunk for their coffee table. Most of the remaining available space was taken up with Perry’s canvases—those that were either on their way out to galleries and local shops or those on their way back.

Everything appeared neat and tidy and in its place. Everything but Perry.

A quick glance in the bedroom verified that he was not in. Nick swallowed his disappointment.  It was unusual for Perry to go to bed before midnight, and he hadn’t known Nick was heading back to LA—Nick hadn’t wanted to let him down in case things didn’t wrap up on schedule—however, a survey of the apartment made it clear that not only was Perry not there, he hadn’t been home since breakfast.

His rinsed cereal bowl sat in the sink. A box of Froot Loops sat on the breakfast counter. Perry teased Nick being a neat freak, but he also did his best to accommodate those fifteen years of military regimen and order.

Nick stared at the red and white cereal bowl with a sinking feeling.

There were any number of benign explanations for why Perry wasn’t home. He could be out with friends. He wasn’t exactly a party animal, but he had made friends in art school and he did hang out with them occasionally. He wouldn’t have left a note because he wasn’t expecting to see Nick until tomorrow evening at the earliest.

He could have gone to a movie.

There were less benign possibilities too.

He could be stranded somewhere. That piece of junk car of his was always breaking down.

He could have had a severe asthma attack and landed in the hospital. Although, fortunately, he was so much better now that he was on those controller medications, an attack wasn’t the concern it once would have been. LA’s smog wasn’t great for him, but it had been months since he’d had a real flare-up.

Nick listened to the sound of traffic outside the apartment as he continued to uneasily study Perry’s cereal bowl. The streets were never silent here. At three o’clock in the morning, you could still hear the rush of the nearby freeway.

Well, it was a trade-off. Peace and quiet in exchange for a real job for him and a decent art school for Perry.

Unbidden, another thought slithered into his brain: he could have met someone.

What the hell? Where was that thought coming from? It wasn’t the first time either. He rejected it instantly, impatiently. For God’s sake. Perry wasn’t home to greet him and his thoughts jumped there?

It wasn’t like he was even the jealous type. He knew Perry loved him, and God knew he loved Perry. More than he’d ever imagined he could love anyone. He trusted Perry.

But there was that ten-year age gap and the fact that Perry had never been exposed to so many other gay men before the move to LA.

Bullshit. Working all these goddamned divorce cases was what even put the thought in his head.

That said, he’d have to be blind not to notice the way other guys responded to Perry—or the way Perry responded to finally getting some appreciative male attention. Meaning only that Perry’s blushing confusion at being flirted with was touching.

And the kid was alone a lot. It couldn’t be helped. Nick was low man on the totem pole and most of the out-of-town and late-night gigs fell to him. Fair enough. He was grateful for the job and beyond grateful at the possibility that he might even be made a partner eventually. But it meant Perry was on his own in the big, bad city a lot of the time.

And so what? Whatever was keeping Perry out at this time of night, it was not some illicit affair. That the idea even crossed his mind was proof Nick was spending way too much time photographing cheating wives and double-dealing husbands.

Whatever. The job was what it was, and what it mostly was, was adulterous spouses and fraudulent insurance claims. He was lucky to have it. But. Not exactly why he’d become a navy SEAL.

But then he wasn’t a SEAL anymore.

Nick was brooding over this, staring out the window over the kitchen sink at the smog-dimmed stars when he heard the smothered sound of Perry’s cough outside the apartment door. He stepped out of the kitchen as Perry’s key turned the lock.

Perry opened the door, clearly surprised to find the lights on. His thin, pointy face lit up as he spotted Nick. “Hey, you’re home!”

Nick retorted, “One detective per family is e—” but the rest of it was cut off as Perry launched himself. Nick’s arms automatically locked around him and his mouth came down hard on Perry’s eager one.

What was it about Perry? He was cute enough, sure. Medium height, lanky, and boyish-looking. His hair was blonde and spiky. His eyes were big and brown and as long lashed as a cartoon character. In this town where two out of every three guys looked like they were trying out for a role in a major motion picture, Perry was almost strikingly ordinary. Maybe that was it. The fact that Perry didn’t look like everyone else. That he didn’t act like everyone else.

It was funny though because Perry was almost the complete opposite of what Nick had always thought was his type. Not that he had really thought of himself as having a type—beyond wanting someone with a penis.

Even after nine months, that unstinting…what the hell would you call it? Sweetness sounded too sappy, but there was something so honest, so generous in Perry’s responses. It made Nick’s heart feel too big for his chest. Closed his throat so that he could rarely say the things he wanted to say, things that Perry deserved to hear.

I love you. It scares me how much I love you.

Instead, he said gruffly, “Where the hell have you been at this hour?”

Perry didn’t seem to hear the gruffness. His wide brown eyes smiled guilelessly up into Nick’s. “I was sketching—”

He had to stop though, starting to wheeze. He threw an apologetic look at Nick and dug out his rescue inhaler. He took a couple of quick puffs while Nick watched, frowning.

This was not good. He didn’t like the sudden alarming reappearance of coughing and wheezing. He put a hand on Perry’s shoulder. Under Nick’s tutelage, Perry had built up some muscle, but he had not really put on much weight. His shoulders were still bony, his collarbones sharp.

“You okay?”

Perry put the inhaler away—he didn’t like using it in front of Nick. As if he thought Nick looked down on him for it?

He said, “It was so dusty up there!”

“Where? Where’ve you been?” Nick hoped he didn’t sound as accusatory as he did to his own ears.

“I drove up to Angel’s Rest.”


“That old hotel in the hills. Remember at Dorian’s exhibition last Saturday? The 1920s hotel in those photos?”

“The abandoned place on Laurel Canyon?”

Jesus fucking Christ. He remembered Perry had seemed fascinated by those photos. But hiking around those hills on his own? Anything could happen to him, from being bit by a rattlesnake to running into some crazed homeless person.

Nick didn’t let any of that show on his face. That was one thing he had decided early on. He was not going to undermine Perry’s confidence or self-resilience with his own fears. Perry was not his child, he was his partner. Physically frail or not, he was a grown man.

“Right,” Perry said quickly, as though he sensed everything Nick was determined not to say. “Only it’s not abandoned. Well, not completely.”

Now, studying him more closely in the lamplight, Nick noticed Perry’s t-shirt was smeared with dust and torn at the collar. And—more alarming—his knuckles were scraped and cut.

Perry said, “Anyway, I’m sorry I’m late. I didn’t know you’d be home tonight. I bought pork chops for when you got home.”

“Were you in fight?”

Perry’s eyelashes flicked up guiltily. “Kind of.”

“Kind of?”

Nick felt as winded as if Perry had punched him. Trying to picture him in a fight was—well, yes, Nick had been showing him some moves, tried to prepare him a little in case he ever had to defend himself—but still, Perry in a fight?

“I’ve got a lot to tell you,” Perry said. “Should I cook the pork chops?”

“I’ll fix us something to eat. You talk.”

In the kitchen Nick grabbed two bottles of beer from the fridge, uncapped them, handing one to Perry and taking a long swallow from his own. He came up for air and exhaled. He’d needed that.

“How did the job go?” Perry asked, watching him.

“The usual. It was okay. I want to hear about your week.”

Nick dug the package of pork chops out of the fridge while Perry told him about sketching Angel’s Rest over the past few days—Nick hanging onto his patience while Perry was momentarily distracted by his enthusiasm for crumbling architecture and light and shadow—before finally describing hearing someone yelling for help from the hotel grounds.

Nick clenched his jaw on his instinctive protest. Of course, Perry would respond. Of course, he would try to help. It was the right thing to do, and by God Nick was not going to try to tell him otherwise—although the sight of Perry sitting there with his torn t-shirt, bruised knuckles, and shining eyes worried the hell out of him.

While he prepared the pork chops, he heard out the whole ridiculous but still alarming story of men in skeleton costumes with wooden swords— He was both proud and aghast that Perry had charged into the middle of that.

Perry chattered on, barely touching his own beer.

“He said his name was Horace Daly. He used to be an actor. He lives at the hotel. It’s not a hotel anymore though. Now it’s sort of like apartments. Kind of like the Alston Estate really. Only—”

“Horace Daly,” Nick interrupted. “The actor. I remember him.”

“Yeah? I didn’t recognize his name, when he introduced himself, but I did sort of recognize his face.”

“I thought he was dead.”

“No. He’s pretty old, but he seems spry. He’s retired now, of course. You should see that place, Nick. He’s got a bunch of movie memorabilia everywhere. You walk down a corridor and suddenly you see a life-sized mummy standing in the shadows. Or a chopped off head sitting on a table. All these props from his films. There’s a gibbet in the old ballroom. The real thing they used in his movie, not replicas. At one time Horace thought maybe he could turn part of the hotel into a museum.” Perry’s eyes shone with enthusiasm, the artist in him no doubt getting off on the workmanship that went into creating realistic-looking skeletons and ghouls or whatever it was Daly kept in his closet.

Nick said, “Right. He was in all those old horror flicks. Night of the Blue Witch, Seven Brides for Seven Demons, Sex and the Single Ghoul.”

“My parents wouldn’t let me watch that stuff.” Perry’s expression was one of brooding regret.

Nick bit back a grin. “No, well. So, Daly is still around and lives in an abandoned hotel in Laurel Canyon?”

“Exactly. But that’s the thing. It’s not abandoned. He owns the property. He rents the suites out to regular tenants.” Perry amended, “Well, maybe regular isn’t the word. I met a couple of them. But he’s got about seven people renting from him.”

“Huh,” said Nick, noncommittal.

Perry’s big brown eyes—wide with worry and concern—raised to his. “Horace thinks someone’s trying to kill him.”

“To kill him,” Nick repeated. “He actually told you he thinks someone is trying to kill him?”

Perry nodded. “He says it’s not the first time he’s been attacked, but no one ever believed him because he’s never had a witness before.”

Several comments leaped to mind. Nick nobly squashed them all.

Perry was still following his own thoughts. “He thinks it might be a crazed fan or someone like that. Someone who saw his movies and kind of lost it.”

“So…like a movie critic?” Nick was teasing, but he didn’t like this at all. Perry had seen the guys dressed up in skeleton costumes, so Horace wasn’t making that part up, but the rest of it sounded pretty sketchy. Speaking as someone in the PI biz, homicides weren’t really all that common. Not even in LA.

Perry made a face and laughed, but he continued to watch Nick in that serious, hopeful way as though he imagined Nick might have an instant solution to old Horace’s problems.

“Why would someone want to knock Horace off?” Nick asked. “I mean, assuming it’s not a crazed fan out to get him.”

“But that’s it. He’s sure it is a crazed fan or a stalker. Someone confusing the movies with real life. He said for years he’s been getting weird, threatening letters.” Perry bit his lip thinking. “He’s hiding something though.”

Nick studied him. The funny thing about Perry was, despite his lack of worldly experience, he had good instincts about people. Reluctantly, he asked, “Why do you think so?”

Perry gave a little shake of his head. “I don’t know. He’s frightened. That’s real. He does believe someone is trying to kill him.” He said slowly, “What I think he’s lying about is not knowing why.”

“It would be in the letters, wouldn’t it?”

“I guess. Horace said he didn’t keep the letters.”

Nick considered that piece of information. It might be the truth. It might be that Horace had the letters but didn’t want anyone to see them. It might be that there never were any letters. He said, “I can tell you the usual reasons people kill. They want something someone else has. Usually money or sex.”

“What about revenge?” Perry asked.

“I’m not saying it doesn’t happen. Just that it’s not nearly as common in real life as it is on TV.”

“I don’t think either money or sex would apply in Horace’s case.”

Probably not. Nick was having trouble believing in any scenario where an aging and long forgotten film star would have a murderous stalker.

“But you think revenge would?”

“Er…no. But by process of elimination…”

Nick sighed inwardly. Thanks to true crime TV, everybody thought they were a PI. Even his own boyfriend.

“Here’s the thing,” he said. “If these yahoos wanted Horace dead, couldn’t they have killed him today?”


“Wooden swords sound more like movie props to me.”

Perry’s expression grew animated. “Yes. Exactly. That’s it. That’s one reason why Horace thinks that this is the work of crazy stalker fans. He believes they tried to use wooden swords because that’s what you do with vampires. You drive a wooden stake through their heart.”

Okaaay. Judging by the bright eyes and pink cheeks, it was pretty clear that Horace wasn’t the only one who thought crazed fans wielding wooden swords made total sense.

“Did Horace report the attack to the police?”

“No. I tried to get him to, but he said he reported the earlier attacks, and nobody believed him. The police thought he was making it up for attention.”

Nick grunted. The same thought had occurred to him.

“Even his tenants thought he was imagining things.”

“That doesn’t seem to be the case.” Nick had to allow that much. “You saw these three yourself.”

“Yes.” Perry’s mind was on other things. “In the movie Why Won’t You Die, My Darling? Horace had to use a wooden sword to kill Angelina once she became a vampire. You see?”

“Mmhm.” Only too well.

“So, it does kind of make sense.”

Perry went back to watching him with that resolve-weakening mix of confidence and hope. Uneasily, Nick considered the hopefulness. What did Perry want? What were his expectations?

The pork chops were fried to perfection, their fragrant smell warming the small kitchen. Nick slid them from the frying pan onto two thick blue plates, then placed the plates on the table.

“Oh, I’m not hungry,” Perry said quickly. Nick guessed that he was thinking—correctly—that two paper-thin pork chops was not a lot of dinner for him. These four beautiful little pork chops would have been a special welcome home dinner for himself. He had to watch for that kind of thing because Perry was prone to unnecessary self-sacrifice. No way was he going to bed hungry. Not on Nick’s watch.

“Did you have dinner?”

“No, but—”

“Eat your dinner.”

Perry grimaced, but then smiled as though Nick were offering him a special treat and not his fair share of their rations.

They ate in silence for a few minutes. Nick was tired. It had been a long ass drive from Modesto. His thoughts were still partly on his case. Perry had had a little adventure, but it was over and no harm done. Nick looked forward to a shower, a sleep, and eventually waking up with his favorite person on the entire planet. Rarely did they get an entire weekend to themselves.

Perry chewed a couple of neatly carved pieces of pork before saying slowly, “I wasn’t expecting you home until Monday.”

“I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get away. Why? Did you make plans?” Nick smiled, a little amused. He took it for granted if Perry had made plans he’d change them to accommodate him. Not that he wouldn’t fall in with Perry’s plans if Perry had his heart set on another art show or something.

Perry looked troubled. “I did, yeah.”

Nick’s brows rose. He was still tolerant.

“I told Horace I’d stay up there this weekend.”


“He needs help, Nick.”

“It sounds like it, all right.” Nick was grim.

Perry seemed to evaluate Nick’s mood. He brightened. “What if you stayed up there with me? That would be even better. You know what you’re doing.”

“What I’m…” Nick swallowed the rest of it. He said very mildly, “Why would you agree to that? Why would you agree to spend the weekend at a falling down hotel where people in costumes are running around swinging swords at innocent bystanders?”

“I’ve told you. Horace is afraid,” Perry said. “Nobody else believes him.”

Nick had no answer for that. Or rather, he had so many answers he didn’t know where to start. He finally managed, “But they’ll believe him now. Right? He’s got corroborating testimony.”

Perry grinned. “‘Corroborating testimony.’ You’re starting to sound like a PI.”

“Yeah. But I’m serious. I don’t see how it would be of any help to Horace for you to stay over in that dump. What are you supposed to do?”

“I think he’s lonely and it’s a relief that someone believes him.”

“Okay, that’s great. But, again, what are you supposed to do about whatever’s going on there?” Nick was struggling not to let his impatience show. Anyway, he was not impatient with Perry. He was impatient with Horace Daly for dragging Perry into his problems.

“Lend moral support?”

“Isn’t that nice,” Nick said grimly. “But you’ve had to use your inhaler tonight for the first time in how long? That’s not a healthy place for you. Clearly.”

Perry colored. His jaw took on that stubborn jut that Nick had become all too familiar with during the past nine months.  “I can’t not go places just because I have asthma.”

“Of course you can. Can’t.” Nick drew a breath. “Of course you can avoid situations that make you s—that aren’t good for you. That’s just commonsense.”

“I already agreed to help.”

“We’re going in circles here. Help him how? How does your being there help Daly?”

Perry said, and it sounded like he too was trying to control his impatience, “But that’s what I’m saying, Nick. If you went with me, you could look into it for him. You’re trained to do this.”

“Look into what?”

“Look into whoever is trying to kill Horace. And why.”

Perry’s stare was unwavering. Almost stern. Meeting it, Nick’s heart sank.

Clearly, he was not going to win this battle. Either he went with Perry or Perry went on his own, but go Perry would. The weekend Nick had in mind was already a write-off.

He struggled for a moment with his disappointment and irritation. Obviously, he could not leave Perry to deal with this bizarre situation on his own. Even if he could, well, there was something about the way Perry looked at him—like he really believed there was nothing Nick couldn’t handle, no problem he couldn’t solve—Nick didn’t want Perry to ever stop looking at him like that.

Anyway, the main thing was that they had the weekend together, right?

“Sounds like you have your mind already made up,” Nick said.

His tone was a little flat and some of the eagerness died out of Perry’s face. “You don’t want to go?”

“Want to go? No. If I do give up my weekend, what do I get out of it?” Nick asked.

Perry continued to eye him in that grave way. “Horace’s undying gratitude?” he suggested finally.


Perry grinned slowly with that funny mixture of sweetness and mischievousness that always set Nick’s heart thudding in his chest. “Let me show you.”

Author Bio:
Bestselling author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure and unapologetic man-on-man romance, JOSH LANYON has been called "the Agatha Christie of gay mystery."

Her work has been translated into eleven languages. The FBI thriller Fair Game was the first male/male title to be published by Harlequin Mondadori, the largest romance publisher in Italy. Stranger on the Shore (Harper Collins Italia) was the first M/M title to be published in print. In 2016 Fatal Shadows placed #5 in Japan's annual Boy Love novel list (the first and only title by a foreign author to place on the list).

The Adrien English Series was awarded All Time Favorite Male Male Couple in the 2nd Annual contest held by the Goodreads M/M Group (which has over 22,000 members). Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist for Gay Mystery, and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads Favorite M/M Author Lifetime Achievement award.

Josh is married and they live in Southern California.


The Ghost Had an Early Check-Out #2

The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks #1