After surviving the threat of a murderer and finding love with each other, George Martin and Mike Foster, best friends since childhood, are settling into a happy life. George's new promotion to the youngest captain in the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office keeps him busy, and his current case is no exception. The body of a fifty-year-old drag queen is found in the locked dressing room of a bar.
As George delves into the subsequent murder investigation, he uncovers a dangerous trail of murdered drag queens and young gay men that intersects with another case involving porn films, torture, and worse. He struggles to make sense of the murders, but it's Mike who asks the question that leads to a break in the case.
Mike and I led them to Five Points, and after we’d found parking places, they followed us into the wine shop, where we found four people already sampling wine. Jackie was the first to comment on our companions. “Are you traveling with an entourage these days, George?”
“Hardly that. This is Crystal, and the cameraman is Lamar. They’re doing a film for the Sheriff’s Office about the activities of my department and have sort of expanded it to include ‘a day in the life of George’.”
“If you people have no objection,” Crystal said, “we’ll be following George and Mike around for the next several weeks, and I’d love to get some film of them interacting with you. I promise you that if pictures of you make it to the final cut, you’ll be given full credit on the screen, including your occupations.”
Nobody seemed to have any objections, so she said, “Roll tape, Lamar.” She held out a microphone and said, “Will someone tell me how this wine tasting deal works on Friday evenings at the Riverside Wine Shop?”
“Basically,” Jackie said, “we select a bottle of wine that we’d like to try, and we split it between those of us who are present. Then we select another bottle. At the end of the evening, the owner of the shop tallies up how much each of us owes. It’s a really easy and inexpensive way to sample some wines that we might not otherwise be willing to try.”
We walked over to the wine displays with Lamar and Crystal trailing behind us. “What about this one?” Crystal said, selecting a bottle and holding it up for us to see.
It was a Chateau d’Armailhac Pauillac 2005.
“That’s an expensive bottle,” Jackie said. “According to the sign, Robert Parker gave it a ninety-three.”
“Robert Parker?” Crystal said.
“Robert Parker is just about the most influential wine critic in the country, if not the world,” Andy said. “He rates wine on a hundred-point scale, and he’s not noted for being overgenerous with scores above ninety.”
“Let’s try it,” Crystal said, “and I’ll pay for it.”
“Honey,” Jackie said, “you ply these folks with free wine of that quality, and they’ll follow you anywhere.”
Which was exactly what Crystal had in mind, I thought.
Crystal carried the wine to the counter, and the bottle was opened. By that time, three more people had joined us. The wine was carefully divided into equal-sized pours, and we all sniffed and took a sip.
“Oh, God,” Andy said, “that is wonderful.”
“What about you, George?” Crystal asked, microphone extended.
“I think this might be just about the best thing I’ve ever put in my mouth,” I said.
Mike said, somewhat testily, “Excuse me?”
“Babe, I said, ‘might be just about the best’, and we were talking about wine, not body parts.”
“I’ll get you for that, anyway.”
“George,” Jackie said, “you’re blushing.”
“I can’t believe I actually said that, and that little bit of tape had better wind up on the cutting room floor.”
“Not on your life, big guy,” Crystal said. “That was way too spontaneous and priceless to be cut.”
With that, the ice was well and truly broken, and we tried four more bottles before we selected a restaurant. I think Crystal and Lamar were actually enjoying themselves as much as the rest of us were.
We had a great time over dinner, talking about anything and everything. We also spent a fair amount of time sharing and talking about the various wines we’d brought along. As we walked to our vehicles, Crystal said, “What do you guys do on Saturday mornings?”
“The same thing we do every morning,” I said. “We start our day at the Y on Riverside Avenue. Tomorrow morning we’ll be running the bridges.”
“Explain that, please.”
I told her, and she said, “May I join you?”
“Sure. I can get you a guest pass for a day.”
“We work out at six on weekdays and at seven on weekends. We’ll be going to breakfast at a neighborhood restaurant afterward.” I gave her directions to the Y.
“Then I’ll see you at seven.”
“Well,” I said when we were on the way home, “that was certainly an interesting evening.”
“Free, too. It was nice of Crystal to pick up the tab for everything, dinner included.”
“She certainly knows how to get on the good side of people when she wants something from them.”