"Harsh words and revenge in Los Angeles"
Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted June 10, 2014
Gay / Lesbian Mystery
Book four in the Cole McGuinness Mysteries series
with such engaging titles as Dirty Laundry. I had not read
any so the characters were new to me. DIRTY DEEDS is a
crime series about a gay man in Los Angeles; we meet Cole
and Claudia, his friend hoping to catch an insurance
fraudster and accidentally sparking a riot as impoverished
people try to grab goods from a broken store window.
There's clearly going to be dark humour in this tale, and
Jae is Cole's gorgeous Korean boyfriend, and at this time
the lads have survived a bombing and a shooting, which
appears to have strengthened their relationship. So much
so, that they're considering getting tattooed. Cole's
Japanese half-brother runs a tattoo parlour.
always has traffic and crowds, and the multiplicity of
ethnic backgrounds brings problems for a PI as Cole tries
to figure out if people are speaking Korean, Vietnamese,
Japanese or Malay. Add Spanish and any number of Latino
dialects to the mix, and it can be difficult to discover
information even if people are willing to give it. Cole and
his brother are in the wrong place when someone shoots a
woman on the street, but they're unharmed and call the
cops. Too late for the victim of the shooting, and for
three other people in her apartment building. Who wanted
so many people dead?
This is an adult romantic mystery between two men with a
relationship. Some backstory is brought to us, because
Cole used to be a cop and thought it didn't matter that he
was gay, until he overheard distrustful comments from other
cops. Now he still has to deal with that department. A
female officer turns out to be less prejudiced than the
men. We also get many references to a person on the run
called Sheila who tried to kill Cole and Jae, but not much
explanation of why.
There's strong language in almost every sentence and
copious firearms and blood in scenes which alternate with
bedroom scenes. The seedy side of Los Angeles is foremost
with tramps and transgender folks among the inhabitants of
the less well-off districts. If this kind of action series
grabs you, DIRTY DEEDS by Rhys Ford will have you rooted to
your seat, waiting to see how the last action sequence pans
out for Cole and his friends.
Sheila Pinelli needed to be taken out.
Former cop turned private investigator Cole McGinnis never
considered committing murder. But six months ago, when Jae-
Min’ s blood filled his hands and death came knocking at his
lover’s door, killing Sheila Pinelli became a definite
While Sheila lurks in some hidden corner of Los Angeles, Jae
and Cole share a bed, a home, and most of all, happiness.
They’d survived Jae’s traditional Korean family disowning
him and plan on building a new life—preferably one without
the threat of Sheila’s return hanging over them.
Thanks to the Santa Monica police mistakenly releasing
Sheila following a loitering arrest, Cole finally gets a
lead on Sheila’s whereabouts. That is, until the trail goes
crazy and he’s thrown into a tangle of drugs, exotic women,
and more death. Regardless of the case going sideways, Cole
is determined to find the woman he once loved as a sister
and get her out of their lives once and for all.
“HOW LONG are we going to sit here? Exactly?”
We were only half an hour into the stakeout, and Bobby was already
shifting in the passenger seat of my Range Rover. I don’t know how
the hell he’d been a patrol cop before he made detective. Sharing a
car with him was a pain in the ass, especially since he kept
fucking with the CD changer.
“I’m going to break your fingers if you touch that again.” It was a
casual threat. Certainly one I couldn’t follow through on, because
really, Bobby could crush my skull with one hand, but it sounded
good. He gave me a sidelong glance, ripened with a healthy shot of
skepticism, but he stopped fucking with the CD.
“How the hell do you listen to something you can’t even understand?
It’s all in Korean. You don’t even speak Korean, and I don’t think
you can say swallowing Jae’s cock makes you fluent. If that were
the case, I’d speak all kinds of shit.”
“It’s music. And I can pick stuff up out of it. Now shut up. Here
comes the guy.” I nodded to the man toddling out of a nearby
apartment building. “Let’s see if he takes the bait.”
My latest case was an insurance fraud. They came over my desk every
once in a while and made for a nice change of pace from hunting
down mistresses and cheating wives. Most of the time, if an
insurance company suspects someone of defrauding them for untold
millions, they usually were right. Something had to be hinky for an
investigation, since most people had countless doctors backing up
their claims with some hard evidence, but every once in a while,
someone in the company has a feeling someone somewhere was lying.
And sometimes that led to me sitting in a car while my office
manager, Claudia, stood at the back end of a rented SUV waiting for
a particular someone to help her unload a flat-screen television.
“Betcha fifty he isn’t going to do it.” Bobby slurped at his
wheatgrass-banana smoothie. I’d kept to coffee. The idea of
drinking a piece of lawn at ten in the morning turned my stomach.
“We’re only offering him fifty to move the television,” I replied
“So you really won’t be out anything, then.”
“The fifty to him would be covered by the insurance company. Losing
a bet to you won’t be. And trust me, if anyone’s going to convince
a guy to move a television set, it’ll be Claudia.”
It really was the perfect setup. The guy in question was a fifty-
year-old man living off of Vermont in one of the many older brick
apartment buildings riddling the area. Luckily for me, next door to
his place was a thrift store. After a bit of sniffing around, I’d
found the store did a brisk business in electronics and other
sketchily acquired items. A large black woman driving up in a new
SUV to unload a flat screen wouldn’t really cause a lot of eyebrow
lifting, even if the neighborhood ran to second-hand stores, rent-
to-own furniture shops, and check-cashing places.
The area we were in sat up against Koreatown and the 101, a
hodgepodge of ghetto and leech-centric businesses. Wealth here was
displayed in possessions, and the streets were clogged with people,
an odd thing in Los Angeles, where most rode in cars. Here, public
transportation depots were packed, and the sidewalks were dotted
with fresh fruit carts, where a couple of bucks would get you a
juicy sweet treat loaded with chili mix for spice. Every few
hundred feet, a makeshift clothing sale happened on a wall or
chain-link fence, prices scribbled out on pieces of paper or
cardboard taped across the front, and faded stuffed animals in
plastic bags were clipped to strings by wooden clothespins while
someone in a Mercedes parked in a nearby driveway, the gleaming
machine at total odds with the run-down, cracked paint of the 1950s
apartment buildings with drooping old palm trees, their trunks
heavy with untrimmed dead fronds.
In a few hours, the sun would start eating away at the cool left
over from the night, and an unbearable heat would eat its way
across the nearly solid concrete and asphalt mass we were
surrounded by. Claudia, on the other hand, was still as cool as a
cucumber as she looked dramatically around, as if disturbed she
didn’t have someone to do her bidding.
Since she was a matriarch of eight sons and God knew how many
grandchildren, I didn’t imagine she had to wear that look very
“There we go. There’s our guy.” I nodded to the man we’d been hired
to tail. He’d grown curious about the goings-on of the SUV and our
finely dressed Claudia.
“She looks like she’s ready for church or something,” Bobby
commented under his breath. “What’s with the hat?”
“It’s a nice hat.” I rather liked it. Pillbox, I think it was
called, and it was perched jauntily over her newly cut bob. After
coming back to work, Claudia was determined to push herself into
different situations, declaring it was past time for her to start
taking chances. The new haircut flattered her round face, and she
sometimes shoved hair extensions through it so it turned into
Shirley Temple ringlets. I still wasn’t as sure about the long,
oddly painted nails she’d been experimenting with, but one never
argued with a woman with talons on her fingers.
“Who the hell wears a hat?” Bobby snorted.
That was ironic, considering he currently had a baseball cap turned
about on his own head. I didn’t point out said irony.
“Come on, just take the money and help the nice lady out.” I had my
camera ready. It was something Jae insisted I use. An older model
he’d passed on to me after an upgrade of his equipment—the third
upgrade in the six months since he’d been shot. I didn’t care. I’d
pay for any f**king thing he wanted to make him happy. And he’d
bloomed, healing through his art while I forced myself to let him
take those steps without me coddling him.
Hardest f**king thing I’d ever done in my life, but I knew he
needed love, not cotton batting.
And every smile he’d given me since he’d opened his eyes following
the shooting told me I’d done the right thing.
Jae’s old camera did everything for me, sometimes scarily so. I
swore the autofocus read my brain through my eyeball and pinpointed
exactly what I wanted to take a picture of. In this case, the
rather beefy older man gone to seed and wearing what looked like
green velour pajamas.
We couldn’t hear what was being said. There’d been some discussion
about an earpiece being used, but there was really no way to hide
it, and Claudia flat out refused being wired. I actually was
relieved about that since the thought of her stripping down to her
bra and me wrestling a piece of threaded audio equipment through
places I didn’t even want to see, much less touch, was a nightmare
I didn’t want haunting me after a night of pepperoni pizza.
“And there he goes, sniffing around.” Bobby grinned.
The man smoothed down his grizzly hair. He looked worse now than he
did in his employee picture. Apparently not having to work anymore
meant he ate and slept in his clothes and didn’t bother changing in
between burrito spills. Even from across the street, his nose
glowed red from too much booze, and his indoor-pale skin was sallow
and yellowed in spots. Jaundice of some sort looked to be setting
in, and I was less worried about him taking the money than I was
about him keeling over from hefting up the twenty-pound television.
Shuffling faster and leering at my office manager, he not only was
taking the bait thrown out to him, he was interested in the caster
too. I couldn’t see Claudia’s reaction, not with her back to us,
but I’d gathered she wasn’t particularly enthralled by his smirk. I
recognized the squaring of her shoulders and the telltale head tilt
of a woman about to unleash her fury and might at her intended
But it never came. Instead, she placed a hand on his shoulder and
gestured toward the open SUV. Since we were parked behind it, I had
a clear shot of the television and the trunk. I’d need proof of Mr.
Velour Pajamas’s ability to lift the electronics out of the car and
across the sidewalk to the thrift store’s door. His doctor claimed
our mark couldn’t stretch his arms above his head, much less
shuffle across a warehouse floor to put a package on a conveyor
belt. Falling off of a dangerous two-step ladder had done him in,
and there was no way he’d be able to contribute to society in the
way he’d done before.
Which appeared to be a piece-of-shit opinion, because the man
practically did jumping jacks when Claudia held up the fifty
dollars for him to see and motioned to the television, obviously
pleading for help.
I was counting on a man’s total inability to see women for what
they really were. In Claudia’s case, there was no way in hell she’d
ask anyone for help. If anything, I’d have had to call out for
shock troops to hold her down while I pried the television out of
her clenched hands, if she really wanted it moved. Despite taking a
gunshot in the line of duty, she carried on as she’d done before,
full speed ahead and taking no prisoners.
But most men didn’t see the strength in a woman. Instead, they
looked for the frailties, hoping to exploit those weaknesses to get
in their good graces. It was a physical and psychological thing,
I’d surmised. An instinct developed after eons of trying to
ingratiate themselves as excellent breeding potential. Luckily, in
my case, being gay tended to sublimate that instinct, but still, it
was there, and I found myself almost opening the door to go help
Claudia with the damned television.
“Don’t do it,” Bobby warned me off. “I know you. Get off your
damned white horse and let her do it. She wants to do this. We
needed someone who looked like they might need help. He wouldn’t
buy it if it were me or you. Claudia’s fine.”
“He’s right up in her face.” Pointing it out seemed stupid, but I
didn’t like how Mr. Velour was sliding up to the woman I’d come to
think of as my surrogate mother.
“She can take care of herself.” He was right to sound unconcerned,
but then while he was fond of Claudia, she wasn’t really his. Not
like she was mine.
And it stung to be reminded of my tendency to charge in full bore.
It was a flaw I couldn’t seem to shake. In this case, it would have
blown the stakeout.
“F**king hell,” I muttered darkly. It was all I could do. Mutter
while I watched some greasy fraud chat up a woman he wasn’t good
enough to breathe on much less talk to.
I was too disgruntled by my helplessness to really comprehend what
was going on. I could have put it down to the fact that I was so
focused on waiting for Mr. Velour to grab the television that I
didn’t really understand what was happening until it was too late.
And by too late I meant when Bobby uttered the one sentence I
thought I’d never hear in my lifetime.
“Did that f**ker just grab Claudia’s ass?”
And that’s kind of how the Vermont Street miniriot was started.
I was out of the Rover before I could take another breath. To be
honest, I didn’t even realize I’d left the car until I had my hands
around the guy’s throat and was throwing him away from Claudia.
Unfortunately, I either underestimated the man’s weight or the
workout program Bobby had me on since Jae’s shooting six months ago
kicked in muscle groups I didn’t know I had, because Mr. Velour
Right through the thrift-store window.
A broken window in most areas usually did not engender the response
this one did. I wasn’t sure if it was because there was already a
large television sitting in open view while being loaded in or out
of a car, but something chummed the waters, and people poured out
of every crevice in the neighborhood, swarming the sidewalk and
nearly burying my target.
And apparently all of them were looking to relieve the thrift store
of its vast array of electronics, prominently displayed in its
formerly intact glass picture window.
Mr. Velour shook off the hit and seemingly was torn between helping
himself to an iPad or coming back out of the window to kick my ass.
The ass-kicking idea must have won him over because he was up on
his feet and shaking the glass out of his hair before I blinked.
Probably driven by his need to show off for my office manager, he
came at me with a roar and hit me in the stomach. Claudia’s admirer
flung his arms around my waist then plowed me down into the
From there, I couldn’t really keep track of what was going on
behind me. I had a small peek of Claudia’s fire-engine-red purse
delivering Justice and All Hell to several bodies around me, but
mostly my face stung from where I’d scraped it across the rough
cement, and I was busy pummeling the hell out of Mr. Velour.
For all that he flew before, he certainly was heavy enough to keep
me pinned down. Sitting across my thighs, he reared up and
roundhoused me with a left hook. I had a brief moment where I
thought, Aha, so the f**ker can twist around, and the doctor lied.
Then my nose filled with blood, and I had other matters to attend
Matters like trying to breathe and getting a smelly wildebeest off
of my lap so I could kick his ass.
His torso gave in waves when I hit him, a very different feeling
from the hard smack of my fist against Bobby’s body in the ring.
When I got out of this mess, I was going to take Bobby to task for
making me fight only fit men. What I clearly needed was instruction
on how to get past the wobbly Jell-O bits of flesh and fat to make
an impact, because Mr. Velour wasn’t feeling a damned thing.
Then he exhaled, and I was left to wonder if his inability to feel
pain had less to do with his absorptive body mass and more with the
smell of Mad Dog 40 on his breath.
That was also when I realized Mr. Velour not only wasn’t wearing
underwear, but he had a hole in the inseam of his pajamas.
Which apparently his cock was able to slip out of and take its own
peek at what was going on.
And it definitely wasn’t going back in.
Not that Mr. Velour noticed—or cared. I, on the other hand, was
about three feet away from a mouthful of green-linted pocket weasel
that looked like it could have used a good scrubbing.
Apparently the primal lizard part of my brain kicked in, because
when Mr. Velour shuffled his way up my chest, bringing his fuzzy
peek-a-boo cock closer to my lips, my body found enough incentive
to toss him off far enough for me to get to my feet.
The cement scraped my hands as I scrambled up, and I was upright
for only about three seconds before someone barreled into me,
sending me down again.
Sometime between the purse massacre and the appearance of Velour-
scented Happy Dick, a mob broke out, and the sidewalk was clogged
with people, most of them struggling to help themselves to the
thrift store’s merchandise. A few feet away, safely barricaded
behind a rack of old, thumbed-through books, a young Hispanic man
screamed profanities at the crowd, alternating between street
Spanish and English, as he gave the store’s address to someone on
the other end of the cell phone he held up to his face.
A punch to the back of my head caught my attention, and I turned to
retaliate only to find myself staring down an elderly woman with a
limpid Chihuahua hanging over her left arm. Her right one was free,
and it quickly coiled back and her tiny little fist ratcheted out
and caught me squarely in the nuts. Despite the thickness of my
jeans and my manly ability to withstand pain, I went down with a
howl, cupping my injured stones in an attempt to keep them from
being kicked by the people running past me.
“Boy! Cole! Get your ass off the ground and get over here!” a
familiar husky voice growled through the rhubarb-mumble of the
crowd, and I recognized Claudia yelling at me. A common occurrence,
usually done in the sanctity of my office, but in this case, I
wasn’t going to be a beggar. Using her cajoling as a beacon of
safety, I crawled as best I could through the mill to reach the
still-open door of the SUV.
Unfortunately, Mr. Velour apparently had the same idea, but
probably not for the same reasons.
Out of the corner of my eye—the one not swelling up—I spotted
Velour Pajamas barreling his way to the rescue of the one woman who
probably did not want him as her knight and savior. If I’d taken a
poll of the crowd, I probably could have found others who shared
Claudia’s opinion, but she was the only one who counted.
With his flaccid cock dangling from the rent in his pajama bottoms,
Mr. Velour bounced over to my buxom office manager in some vain
attempt to rescue her from the riot, or possibly he thought the
violence would incite her passions and let him get access to some
hardcore nookie, but either way, he was sadly mistaken.
Claudia took one look at him with his danglies prancing about in
front of him and hauled herself up to clothesline him across the
Smart on her part, really, because his face was greasy, and I
already knew hitting his body was like punching out an under-filled
beanbag with about as much effect. The strong-arm slice on his
throat, however, did the trick, and he stumbled back, going beet
red from the lack of air.
I’d have worried she killed him, but I didn’t really give a shit.
He wasn’t worth the money the insurance company was paying out to
us, and my nuts were already traumatized into submission from the
old woman, who was now stuffing DVDs down the front of her
The shivering dog looked on with its gimlet eyes watering from the
exposure to sunlight and seemed to take great delight in nipping at
anyone who got too close to its owner as she ransacked the thrift
I could no longer see or hear the young man working the store, and
some small part of my brain hoped he’d found sanctuary some place
other than the restroom. With his luck, he probably wasn’t even
supposed to be working that day and really just wanted to play
street hockey or something innocuous instead of being ground zero
at a sidewalk riot.
Sirens began to overwhelm the noise of the crowd by the time I got
two feet closer to Claudia. It was hard going on my hands and
knees, but I wasn’t going to risk standing up. At the sound of the
familiar whoop-whoop of our siblings-in-blue, the crowd suddenly
grew wings, and all manner of items suddenly began to rain down on
the sidewalk. A pressure cooker, an old-style contraption with a
weight on top, nearly struck my head and broke open. Some
enterprising soul had stuffed it with porn mags, and they burst as
if they’d been held back in an overstuffed piñata. Within moments
of hitting the hard curb, the magazines were off and flying, a
veritable ticker-tape parade of oiled, glistening boobs and waxed-
As if the feminine bits weren’t enough of a turnoff, some asshat in
the past decided body hair was a bad thing, and now every woman
primped and airbrushed onto a skin mag looked like a plastic doll.
It was one thing to like women. A lot of men I knew did. But it was
quite another thing to have them look like Santa’s wet dream.
That probably pissed me off as much as Mr. Velour’s wang almost
plopping itself into my mouth for a morning hello.
I’d almost reached Claudia when a pair of hands decided to help me
up. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t my mostly friend Bobby.
Instead, a hefty gorilla of a man wearing Los Angeles’s blues
casually dragged my sorry ass up off the ground and into the air,
seemingly not minding gravity or my muscle mass and weight.
I blinked around the blood coming from my right eye and found
myself staring down what looked like all of the city’s SWAT teams,
with a few casual patrols tossed in for good effect. Bobby was
nowhere to be seen, but it was hard to tell with the amount of
bodies being handcuffed and led to squad cars. A paddy wagon nearby
already seemed to be sporting a few occupants, including my prime
target of the day, Mr. Velour and his raging cock of fury.
The old woman and her Chihuahua were gone, but that was how the
world was. The ancient and cunning would always sacrifice those
around them to survive. I’m sure the woman learned that lesson from
her spastic, trembling dog.
A very brave policeman wrested Claudia up against the side of the
rented SUV and was trying to cuff her. I blinked again, and the
world shifted around me. I tasted the SUV’s steel and paint.
“You have the right to remain silent….” That was all I heard
through the mumble of the officer next to me straining to contain
an enraged Claudia, and then a thump of a body hitting the car next
to me turned out to be Bobby with a cut across his cheek and his
lower lip swelling up like a balloon. He’d gained his own cop, a
cuter one than the thug tightening the cuffs painfully over my
wrists in some sort of BDSM exercise.
“So your boyfriend….” Bobby gasped as his arms were twisted higher
up his back, and I heard the rattle of steel bracelets coming out
of the cop’s Batman belt. “Think he’s got enough bail for the three
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