Nerds Who Kill (Paul Turner Series #8)by Mark Richard Zubro
"Edgy...tense storytelling...heart-wrenchingly realistic. The reader can't rip through the pages fast enough." - San Francisco Bay Times on One Dead Drag Queen
"Combing murder and microchips, rapid-fire patter zings across the pages in this latest Turner mystery, which showcases Zubro at the top of his form. Sure to please present fans and win new ones." -
"Edgy...tense storytelling...heart-wrenchingly realistic. The reader can't rip through the pages fast enough." - San Francisco Bay Times on One Dead Drag Queen
"Combing murder and microchips, rapid-fire patter zings across the pages in this latest Turner mystery, which showcases Zubro at the top of his form. Sure to please present fans and win new ones." - Booklist on Sex and Murder.com
"Are You Nuts? had me guessing until the very end...Tom is an appealing, witty character." -Mystery News
"A breathless, headlong hurtle through a complex maze of danger and deceit. A stellar accomplishment." - The Clarion-Ledger on An Echo of Death
"Zubro's greatest gift to the reader is the fluidity of pace and his flawless structure, which never loses balance. He also sprinkles the ride with lots of wit and self-deprecating camp humor...a truly enjoyable read." - Lambda Book Report on Rust on the Razor
"Pace and flawless structure continue to be the signatures of this author's cagey works." - Buffalo News on The Truth Can Get You Killed"
Read an Excerpt
Nerds Who Kill
By Mark Richard Zubro
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2005 Mark Richard Zubro
All rights reserved.
A tremendous crash woke Paul Turner out of a sound sleep. He was on his feet and out his bedroom door in seconds. Ben, his lover, was right behind him. When he got to the top of the stairs, he heard the tinkle of shattering glass. His son Brian, baseball bat in hand, emerged from his room. Paul rushed down the stairs and banged open his younger son's bedroom door. The bed was empty. He listened for a moment. The source of the noise was the kitchen. He dashed in that direction.
In the light from the hall, he saw his eleven-year-old son, Jeff's, wheelchair on its side, up against the far cabinets. Using his hands, arms, and elbows, Jeff was crawling along the floor. Paul hurried to him. Jeff looked up at his father. He said, "I'm fine. I don't need help."
Paul knelt over his son. Jeff very much needed help, but the boy had been insisting on being more independent lately. Paul hovered inches away, set to help or guide, lift or carry, as his son wished or needed.
Ben flipped on the kitchen light. The room looked as if every pot in the house was on the stove or on the floor. Strings of translucent metal criss-crossed the kitchen table. Metallic paint and silver-colored plastic shimmered in a variety of bowls, pots, and pans. Shards of a glass pitcher were strewn over half the floor. A metallic, burnt plastic smell wafted through the air. A cool breeze flowed in from the open back door.
Jeff stopped trying to right himself and breathed heavily. He saw his brother with the bat. "What's that for?" Jeff asked.
Brian said, "For bashing little brothers."
Jeff was in his blue X-Men pajamas. The two adults were in white briefs. Brian wore black silk boxer shorts and a black T-shirt.
"What were you trying to do?" Paul asked. "It's two in the morning." He shut the back door. The smell became stronger immediately. Seconds later the smoke detector began beeping. Paul turned off all the burners on the stove, removed all the pots on top of it, and then opened the door again. Ben stood on a chair and disconnected the battery. The beeping stopped. Hands on hips, Paul turned to his son.
Jeff said, "I had to make some last-minute adjustments on my costume. I was trying to heat the plastic so I could form it into the right shapes."
Paul knew his sons were excited about going to the World's Ultimate Science Fiction Convention, which was being held this weekend in Chicago. The younger boy, Jeff, had dinned whole symphonies of enthusiasm into his ears for months. Jeff wanted to wear a superhero costume. Paul thought that being confined to a wheelchair might limit his son's possibilities. Jeff had decided he was going as Charles Xavier from X-Men and he'd insisted on a new suit. Ben had spent hours creating a headpiece that Jeff claimed the character wore in the movies to enhance his mind control abilities.
Paul hadn't seen the movies. He knew Jeff had stacks of comic books in chronological order, carefully arranged by superhero or heroes. Most of the attachment to the wheelchair apparatus, tendrils of twisted coat hangers, plastic, glue, and aluminum foil, was on the back porch awaiting transport for the occasion.
"We could have helped you," Paul said.
"I know. I wanted to try doing it myself."
Paul said, "Wanting to try doing it yourself is a good thing. Doing it at this hour of the morning is a bad thing. And next time you want to try doing it yourself, you need to have one of us supervise."
Paul held his younger son's eyes. He was not going to debate with an eleven year old. Jeff was not above trying to use his spina bifida as a ploy for getting attention or for avoiding punishments, but Paul was immune to the manipulations of his son. The kid knew his big, deep brown eyes and his disability worked well, mostly with strangers. Paul gazed silently until the boy lowered his eyes.
"Sorry," Jeff said. He glanced around at the mess. Again, he tried to get up. This time, he allowed Paul to lift him into his wheelchair, which Brian had righted. When Jeff was seated, the youngster said, "I'll clean up the mess."
Brian trudged back up to bed.
"You need some help?" Ben asked.
"I think we've got it covered," Paul said. "I'll be up in a few minutes." Ben went upstairs and brought Paul back a pair of jeans. He gave Paul a brief hug and went back up to bed.
Paul helped Jeff clean. Plastic had congealed in the bottom of two pots. They were ruined. Paul held them out for Jeff to inspect. The boy said, "That'll shoot my allowance for half a year."
"About that," Paul agreed.
Into the silence, Jeff asked, "I can still go to the convention?" His voice quavered.
Paul said, "This wasn't malicious, but it could have turned into something dangerous. There could have been a fire. You know I'm serious about you asking one of us for help."
"I know. I will."
"You can go to the convention."
"Yes!" The boy began to pump his arm up and down in triumph.
"And your consequence will commence the day after."
The boy eyed his dad. "I understand," he said softly.
"Good." Paul ruffled the boy's hair. "I'm glad you didn't try and turn this into a debate. It is far too late, and you've been trying that far too much lately. That has to stop as well."
Father and son cleaned together in the quiet house. When the ruined pans were trashed and everything else was back in its place, Paul said, "Show me what you were trying to do."
Jeff took his materials and spread them out on the table. He explained the complicated changes he wanted to make to the part that attached to his wheelchair. Paul said, "Do you want me to try it?"
"You could show me."
Paul began to explain the process as he put together the parts and used heat and cooling as the plastic took on another shape. When he looked up, Jeff's head was sunk on his chest. The boy was fast asleep.
Paul shut the back door, then reinstalled the battery in the smoke detector. Then he wheeled Jeff to his room and lifted him into bed. He pulled the blanket over his son. He went back to the kitchen and finished the costume. It was nearly three-thirty when he crawled into bed. Ben woke briefly. "Everything okay?" he asked.
Paul murmured, "The aliens have not landed." He snuggled close and fell asleep.
The next morning it was a struggle to get his younger son to go to school. Normally, the boy loved to attend, but his distraction by the imminent opening of the convention was nearly total.
Jeff inspected his costume where Paul had left it on the back porch. The boy declared the final shape to be "cool." Paul didn't think it looked half bad.
Paul Turner spent a full day at his job as a detective for the city of Chicago. They had a call late in their shift from the new movie complex just east of Halsted and Randolph. The case was a no-brainer. At a Friday matinee a gray-haired man in his seventies had shot the teenager sitting next to him through the head. The teenager and his friend had sat through an early movie talking, laughing, and hitting each other. During the closing credits, the man had simply pulled a gun and fired. One teen lay dead. His partner in movie dis-etiquette was on the floor. He had shit and pissed his pants and, between sobs and tears, was begging for mercy. When the police arrived, the older gentleman simply turned over his gun to the cops and said, "That's one for the good guys." Buck Fenwick, Turner's partner on the police department, had been willing to argue for justifiable homicide. As he'd succinctly put it, "What exactly about this scenario was wrong?" Making noise in theaters was right up there in Fenwick's "done wrong" pantheon, just behind Cubs relief pitchers who blew saves but ahead of criminals who disturbed his lunch.
Unfortunately, the cowards in the row behind the man-versus-teenager drama — cowards who had been unwilling to verify the older gentleman's initial complaint — were now insistent upon seeing the person who shot the gun arrested. Fenwick had grumbled, "Some witnesses don't know when they've got it good." The arrest and paperwork had put Turner behind schedule for the evening's activities. As prearranged, he met everyone down at his lover's auto shop. He looked forward to something completely different.
Brian had kept his costume a secret. Paul wondered why his older boy, Brian, had gotten so interested in the convention. Paul hadn't known the older boy was particularly interested in science fiction or superheroes. He'd grown out of his Star Wars mania and his interest in comic books a few years ago.
When Paul entered the shop, he saw that Mrs. Talucci, their ninetysomething next-door neighbor, was present, along with Myra, the most famous lesbian mechanic in the city. The two of them would be driving to the convention together. Mrs. Talucci was attending as an elderly Tribble. With all the extra padding she'd added to her slight frame, Mrs. Talucci now looked like a medicine ball covered in fur. Paul's son Jeff had worked up a small computer-guided electrical device so that Mrs. Talucci could cause the outer layer of her costume to wiggle and a hidden microphone to give off chirpy squeaks. Turner had to admit, it was pretty effective.
They were discussing Myra's lack of a costume. She said, "Half the dykes in the hall are going to look like Xena. What's the point if you can't stand out? I've got no imagination and no creativity. I'm going to watch the spectacle. And it's going to be quite a spectacle."
Jeff asked, "Why is it going to be a spectacle?"
Myra's eyes gleamed. "I call it the Michelin tire effect."
Myra leaned closer to the boy. "Most of the women in those Xena costumes should have gone on every diet on the planet years ago. They've got all this metal surrounded by a leather skirt that might be adequate protection on a vehicle, but is not going to make it on their three-hundred-pound frames."
When Paul saw Brian, he realized why his older son had been totally mum about his costume. The teenager was in a butt flap and leather harness. The bit of brown leather covered by an eighth of an inch the front of the bottom of his torso, and his butt by slightly less. A broadsword dangled from a strap on his back. He was leaning one elbow on the side of their blue van. Myra began helping him cinch up the harness on the torso underneath.
"They let you bring those things?" Paul asked.
"The sword? Yeah. You've got to get special permission, and you've got to get bonded. You also have to be at least sixteen."
Paul examined the sword in its scabbard. "Is it real?"
Brian reached over his head, took out the sword, and handed it, hilt first, to his dad. "Try it."
It took two hands to heft it. The thing was as heavy as it looked. "You sharpen this?" Paul asked.
"No, the place you rent it from says you're not supposed to do anything with it."
The hilt had a bright blue stone in the center and glittery stuff that sparkled and rubbed off on his hands. "What's the glittery stuff?" Paul asked.
Brian said, "I think the technical term is 'glittery stuff.'"
Paul gave it back to his son. "Be careful with the thing."
Brian held out a metal clasp. "I have to have this attached so it can't be drawn. Convention rules."
Paul had asked Jeff if everyone would be in costume. Jeff had said, "Usually there's just like this one big costume deal on Saturday night." His son spoke as if he were an old hand at attending conventions as opposed to the reality, which was that he found these answers on the Internet. "There's so many people attending this convention that they divided the costume competition into categories for Friday night, with the top winners in each category as finalists on Saturday night."
"Who are you supposed to be?" Myra asked Paul.
Paul was in his navy blue sport jacket, beige pants, white shirt, and tie. Turner said, "A boring police detective."
"Got that in one," Myra said.
Paul said to Brian, "Who are you supposed to be, Tarzan?"
"No. The Beastmaster." Brian was in excellent shape and the costume revealed far more muscles than Turner thought appropriate. It wasn't an obscene costume, but it was trying to be.
"This costume is appropriate," Brian said.
"It's obscene," Myra said.
Jeff came around the van from the front. He said, "Ben told him he had to wear something under the butt flap."
"I knew that," Brian said.
Jeff said, "You're not going to make him change?"
Paul was not about to fight his sixteen year old over the costume. He knew he had to pick his battles, and this wasn't one of them. Going to the convention in this get-up might fill Brian's need to try to get himself attention. The boy wasn't doing drugs, he didn't come home drunk, and he hadn't gotten a girl pregnant. He didn't come home late or try to sneak in or out. His grades were excellent and, at least for now, he'd given up trying to get a tattoo and/or a motorcycle. A costume wasn't worth a hassle.
Ben came in. He wore jeans and a black T-shirt. He and Paul kissed. Ben said, "You've seen Tarzan here?" He patted Brian on his leather shoulder strap.
"The Beastmaster," Brian corrected.
Jeff said, "Could that be a master beaster?"
Brian glared at his younger brother. "If you're implying ..." Jeff said, "That you're like everybody else."
Brian said, "You know far too much and are much too young."
"Round one for tonight is over," Paul said. "And all sexual innuendo stops right there, no matter how remote."
Both boys huffed.
Ben said, "I think Fenwick might say, 'Maybe he's trying to work undercover.'"
Mrs. Talucci said, "Fenwick would come up with a much worse and more clear pun."
"They can't all be gems," Paul said. He patted Brian on the shoulder. "I imagine you will probably be cold. If that doesn't bother you, it doesn't bother me." The weather for March had been seasonal, which meant a butt flap, harness, and Speedo were not a lot of protection. Paul suspected Brian would be too stubborn to admit he was cold. If the kid was willing to pay the price, Paul wasn't going to bug him about it.
Ian Hume walked in. He was a reporter, a former cop, and had been Turner's first lover. Ian was covering the convention for the local gay paper, the Gay Tribune.
Ian said, "Nice butt flap."
Brian said, "I wore it for you."
Paul said, "No more comments about butt flaps."
Ian wore his usual slouch fedora, khaki pants, blue shirt, and subdued tie. Myra looked him up and down, and said, "And you're going disguised as Indiana Jones on dress-up day?"
"I'm going as a bored reporter who covers this kind of shit for a paper whose stringer who covers these things has the flu."
"A perfect disguise then," said Mrs. Talucci.
Ian said, "And I'm going to be there for all three days. The idiot stringer set up all these interviews ages ago. I'd rather have root-canal surgery."
Myra said, "I shall begin weeping for your plight immediately."
They used their van to tote all of the paraphernalia for Jeff's costume. He would only actually don the cumbersome headpiece during the competition. When completely assembled it stretched nearly ten feet in every direction. According to Jeff, if it had been truly realistic, it would have extended past the ceiling.
A one-hundred-foot-tall inflatable Starship Enterprise floated outside the Greater Chicago Hotel and Convention Center. The entry hall of the hotel had a vast atrium in the middle, a one-thousand-seat restaurant to its left, and the hotel registration desk to the right. Copious large signs on easels pointed the way to the convention.
At the convention registration desk Turner saw a number of costumed individuals, but to his surprise most people were in ordinary attire.
Ben said, "I thought I'd see odder costumes and more of them."
Jeff said, "Boy, you guys are so out of it. There's like a hundred thousand people here. It's the biggest SF convention ever. Only maybe a couple thousand will be in costume. Most everybody who's going to be doing costumes will only have them on for the contest. Can I go to the game room first? I'm supposed to meet Bertram there as soon as I'm done registering."
A crowd swept toward their small gathering.
"Who is it, Dad?" Jeff asked.
Through a gap in the milling throng, Paul saw a woman dressed in a passionate purple evening gown. She carried a two-foot-long red ostrich feather in her right hand.
Paul said, "A woman in an evening gown. She's carrying this gigantic feather-plume thing."
"A red one?"
Excerpted from Nerds Who Kill by Mark Richard Zubro. Copyright © 2005 Mark Richard Zubro. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Mark Richard Zubro is the author of numerous mysteries in both the Paul Turner Series, most recently Dead Egotistical Morons, and the Tom Mason/Scott Carpenter series. He is a junior high teacher and lives in Mokena, Illinois.
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Hey (sorry couldnt rpely was at the beach and wint be on sunday and all next week)
Chicago Police Department Detective widower Paul Turner raises his two sons Brian and Jeff with the help of his gay lover Ben. Lately Jeff, who is wheelchair bound, has become quite independent, which is driving poor Paul to distraction, but he admits only to himself that life has been good of late though he frets over Jeff constantly. --- Paul takes his two teenage sons wearing costumes to the World¿s Ultimate Science Fiction Convention at the Greater Chicago Hotel and Convention Center. The cop figures he will survive even if Brian is a butt and Jeff is a pain until his official job intercedes. Someone murders renowned popular fantasy author Muriam Devers using a broadsword, a not so common weapon except at a sci fi convention where almost every teen including Paul¿s son has one. Soon other attendees are murdered with an assortment of convention weaponry. Paul and his partner Buck Fenwick seek a serial killer attendee who knows his or her armaments, a wolf amongst geeky sheep. --- This is a terrific police procedural that is humanized by Mark Richard Zubro's making a strong argument on what constitutes a loving family. The cleverly crafted who-done-it hooks the audience as the two detectives make inquires at the gala. However, it is the personal side of Paul that grips the tale as he is openly gay yet is a nurturing father and a solid cop who shows how inane ¿Don¿t tell¿ is and how ridiculous using sexual preference as a values barometer truly is. NERDS WHO KILL is a fabulous murder mystery in a fine series that reminds the audience that individual behavior and respect are what counts not sexual preference.--- Harriet Klausner