Publisher: Pride Publishing
Author: Angel Martinez
Cover Artist: Emmy Ellis
Format: ebook (and print in Offbeat Crimes: Volume 1)
Release Date: General release 9/20/16
But life in the 77th Precinct doesn’t leave much room for internal reflection. A confrontation with a stick-throwing tumbleweed in Fairmount Park leads to bizarre consequences involving pill bugs, statues and…time travel? If Vikash manages to survive the week and stay in one point in time, he might be able to address normal things like relationship problems. He just needs Kyle to have a little more patience. Maybe a few centuries’ worth.
Offbeat Crimes Series Info:
In Philadelphia, through an odd mix of budget issues and circumstance, the 77th is manned entirely by officers with bizarre or severely limited psychic talents. The firestarter who can’t get a spark when it’s humid. The vampire who can’t drink whole blood. These are the stories of the misfits, the outcasts from even the strangeness of the paranormal community. Call them freaks, but they’re police officers first, serving and protecting, even if their methods aren’t always normal procedure.
It would follow that nothing should surprise him anymore.
But when he walked into the squad room that morning, late due to a doctor’s appointment, his colleagues had gathered around the periphery of the room to watch Greg Santos in a fistfight with a puddle of water.
Coffee cup in hand, he wandered over to lean against the desk beside his partner.
“Hey, Kash.” Kyle gave him a quick glance, his attention fastened on the unlikely pugilists.
“Everything go okay?”
“Yes. Shoulder’s fine.”
“You’re not even going to ask, are you?”
Vikash sipped his whipped cream-drowned mocha latte. “You’ll tell me.”
“You saying I talk too much, Soren?” Kyle nudged him with an elbow. “One of us has to. The suspect was originally an ice tree. Tree-ish. Thing. It was ice and looked like a three-year-old had built a tree out of Legos.”
Carrington Loveless III, the department’s nutritionally challenged vampire, came to lean against the desk on Vikash’s other side. “It was, as I understand it, standing on the Ben Franklin Parkway and hitting people as they walked by. Didn’t seem to be causing injury, but we can’t have an ice beast swatting tourists’ asses. Harassment, at the very least. Bad for the city’s image.”
“Why, yes. Yes, it did.” Carrington’s smile was just half a fang short of evil. “Melted through the net in which Santos had snared it, and the resulting puddle goosed him. Things escalated rather quickly from there.”
Greg didn’t seem to be making any headway, other than getting soaked. “Should get an Odo bucket,” Vikash murmured.
Kyle chuckled into his coffee. “Seriously, Carr? You never watched Deep Space Nine? The character who could only retain a solid shape for so long?”
Carrington sniffed. “Masters level courses in geek. Between the two of you, that’s what I’d need to decipher half your conversations.”
“This from someone who sings opera in the car,” Carrington’s partner, Amanda Zacchini, muttered as she walked past, her steps hindered by the piece of equipment she carried. Shira Lourdes, Greg’s partner, hurried after her with an armful of some sort of corrugated hose.
“I like a lot of music!”
“Moody, dark, emo music, sure,” Amanda countered, though her attention was on what she and Shira had brought in, most likely from Amanda’s truck, since they’d tracked in snow as well.
When Amanda attached the hose, Vikash finally recognized it—a Shop-Vac, of the sort people had in their garages or by their workbenches. He shook his head as he hurried over to get the vac plugged in for Amanda. While the male squad members had been standing around watching the struggle, some of them taking bets, their two female members had been deriving a solution.
Without another word, Amanda switched on the vac, sucked up the water combatant, removed the hose and jammed a rubber ball in the opening, effectively trapping the animated water and leaving Greg panting on the floor.
Lieutenant Dunfee had just emerged from her office, eyebrows raised. “Do I want to know?”
Perched on top of the lieutenant’s doorframe, a bright-blue and neon-pink bundle of feathers flapped its wings and let out a raucous croaking laugh. Edgar, the department’s foul-mouthed raven, finally decided to weigh in. “Water sports!” he called out. “Not safe for work! Fucking amateurs!”
Lieutenant Dunfee shot him a withering glare. “Enough with the editorial, Edgar. What the hell is going on out here?”
“Under control, ma’am,” Amanda deadpanned. “But I’m filing an expense report for a Shop-Vac. Just so you know.”
“Get it on my desk. I’ll sign it. See what the bean counters make of that.” The lieutenant pinned Greg with a hard stare. “Santos? You need medical assistance?”
Greg climbed to his feet hastily, wiping the back of one hand across his split lip. “No, ma’am.”
“Good to hear. Back to work, ladies and gentlemen. Try to keep the violent confrontations to a minimum today.”
A rather disgruntled and damp Greg Santos stalked off to the men’s room to clean up while Shira continued with booking the combative puddle.
“Just another day,” Vikash murmured as he finally took his seat at the desk he shared with Kyle.
“Hmm?” Kyle glanced up from his typing. “Oh. Yeah. Though I’m thankful for any day free of explosions and imminent death. Or are you having a paranormal existential crisis again?”
“An amused one.”
“Well, damn. If it’d been the other kind, I could get us takeout from My Thai, light some candles and put on Princess Bride when we got home.”
“Kyle. Work.” Vikash said it gently, but it was all he could do to keep his gaze from darting about to see if anyone had heard.
“It’s not like I’m yelling,” Kyle hissed. “God’s sake, Kash. The paranoia’s getting a little old.”
“Work is work and home is home.”
“Yeah, yeah, and never the twain shall meet. It’s not like I’m cornering you for a quickie in the conference room. Or locking lips over lunch.”
“The increased alliteration when you’re upset.”
“I’m not upset. Just a little irritated that you keep jumping and twitching if I get too close anywhere outside one of our apartments. We’re both professional at work. I don’t insist we hold hands those rare times we go out to dinner. Ticks me off that you keep acting, I don’t know, embarrassed about us.”
“You promised to stick to professional at work.”
“Easy, Soren.” Carrington patted his shoulder as he strolled past. “Suggesting takeout for dinner is hardly unprofessional.”
“You heard?” Vikash’s heart thudded against his breastbone. The whole department knows. Everyone can see.
“Vampire ears, my dear. What don’t I hear? Seriously, though, relax. No one has time to care about your little illicit tryst.”
Vikash might have taken the advice if Virago hadn’t bellowed across the room, “Hey! What’re you girls whispering about? Going to some rainbow and glitter bar?”
“Only if you come with us!” Kyle made kissy face noises in Virago’s direction. “Don’t forget your purse!”
“Shut it, Vance,” Amanda muttered as she stalked past and smacked Virago on the back of the head.
“Your conf…confucking…what’s the word, Carr?”
“Conflation,” Carrington called back without missing a beat.
“Yeah, that word…of gay men with actual chicks is offensive.”
Normally, Vance Virago, self-proclaimed tough guy, cringing as he apologized would have been amusing. Vance couldn’t have heard them from across the room. He was merely bullying Kyle as he always did. But the timing was horrible, and between those homophobic words and Vikash’s twitching, they had managed to erase the contented ease from Kyle’s face. It gutted him that Vance could do that. Worse still, Vikash had no idea what to do about it.
He didn’t have a chance for even a minimalistic explanation or apology though, since an alert popped up onscreen from the lieutenant, ordering them to a disturbance in Fairmount Park.
Vance shoved violently back from his desk. “Aw, man!”
And our resident homophobe is our backup. Irritation crawled up Vikash’s spine. Kyle had never done anything to Vance except refuse to crumple under his bullying. Some days it was bad enough that Vikash wanted to file harassment charges on Kyle’s behalf, though Kyle would resent the interference. Still, it was wrong and— Oh, damn.
Through his rising anger, Vikash felt the uncomfortable heated ball of power at his core heralding his strange talent manifesting. He nearly panicked, the urge to reach across the desk and grab Kyle overwhelming. Together, they had a chance to direct the lightning blast of anger somewhere harmless. Maybe the old paper shredder that jammed after every page. But touching Kyle also meant the power would amplify in some bizarre melding of their broken paranormal talents. Not to mention, touching Kyle in the squad room just gave Vance more ammunition.
Then it was too late for choices. The power surged from him as he sat stone still, fighting to keep any reaction from his expression. A pop and a distinct electronic sizzle sounded on his left and he cringed.
“Fuck me!” Vance shouted, batting at his smoking computer monitor.
Jeff stood to help him smother the tiny flames with a towel. “Damn it, Vance. What did you do now?”
“I didn’t do it! I swear!”
“Lieutenant’s gonna stop letting you have computers if you keep breaking them.”
Vikash turned back to find Kyle staring at him instead of watching the commotion, his lips clamped together in an angry line.
“I don’t need you to protect me, Kash.”
“It wasn’t…it got away from me.”
Kyle snorted. “Obviously.”
4.5 out of 5 stars
The Pill Bugs of Time is the second book in the Offbeat Crimes series. This story continues almost immediately after Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters left off. In other words, the books need to be read in order.
Pill Bugs of Time is told in Vikash's point of view so this book shows a different side of both Kyle and Vikash's characters. In the first book, Kash seemed to be the strong, silent type to Kyle's slightly off-beat personality. This book shows that while Vikash looks to be 'perfect' he's hiding a world of self-doubt, and significant conflicted emotions over his relationship with Kyle.
While this book is by word count a novella there is a lot of story packed within it's pages. While the first book was a little more light-hearted and had quite a bit of humor tossed in, this book is just a bit more serious. I really appreciated that contrast from Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters. While I may not have been thrilled to see Kash continually hide his relationship and feelings about Kyle to the world at large, I can also understand it. Also seeing his internal struggle of doubting himself made him more human and less 'perfect'. This one made me ache for Kyle particularly when Kash would pull away, or stop touching Kyle.
Story wise and structure wise this book was just as well-written as the previous book in the series. Which, again, for me as a long time urban fantasy/sci-fi reader worked for me on all levels. The author's skill to bring two inanimate secondary characters to life and make readers care for those characters is fantastic. In the first book, she introduced Leather Jacket and gave him full life and a personality to match. We see much more of him in this book along with Tim, a fuzzball found within the tumbleweed that explodes at the start of the story. Tim reminds me of Squirmy from Sesame Street, he's unassuming because he's fuzz but he's got a powerful personality behind that tiny stature.
Pill Bugs of Time was all I could ask for in a follow up story to Lime Gelatin and Other Monsters. I highly recommend this series for any urban fantasy fan out there. I also hope to see more books in this series in the future.
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Published since 2006, Angel's cynical heart cloaks a desperate romantic. You'll find drama and humor given equal weight in her writing and don't expect sad endings. Life is sad enough.
She currently lives in Delaware in a drinking town with a college problem and writes Science Fiction and Fantasy centered around gay heroes.