Looking For Beta Readers

I have a new short story I wrote for a contest. Take a read and let me know what you think.

The Case of the Rose Petal Killer: A Dirk Randolph Mystery


Rich Allan

When the phone rang I knew it would be Captain Moran. The news guys had played up the murder as the lead story on all three local TV stations less than twelve hours ago. The anchors in their white shirts, sports coats, and fraternity ties all punched up the same words: Gruesome, Blood Everywhere, Rose Petal Killer Strikes Again.

All of San Francisco had been on edge since the first murder occurred two months ago, a young professional woman, brunette, 26 years of age, was found in front of her apartment, still in her Acura, keys in her hand, driver’s seat laid back, fully dressed in a pants suit, stabbed multiple times in the heart, with red rose petals sprinkled liberally over her face and body. A thorough check of the car and the seat control had yielded no prints, no DNA.

When the second murder happened with the same basic m.o., the media jumped on it and branded the perp as the Rose Petal Killer. Only this time the young woman was blonde and found in Golden Gate Park, several miles from the first murder, dressed in jogging bra and shorts, covered in yellow roses, lying on her back, displayed on a wooden bench for all to see.

Neither woman had been sexually assaulted or touched, except by the piercing of the heart with a four-inch blade. No evidence had been recovered at the scene by the squint squad who had gone over the bodies looking for things like skin fragments under the fingernails and examining all the other areas the serial killer might have touched, assuming the same guy did both women. I also had a suspicion the ladies must have known the guy, were surprised by the attack, and never had a chance to fight back.

I answered the phone. “Captain.”

“Dirk, how did you know it was me? I know you’re too cheap to pay for caller i.d.”

“I watch the news. You still at the scene?”

“Yeah. So get your ass over here, detective, and solve this thing.”

“You want to tell me the address?”

“Sorry, 845 Mason Street.”

“High rent district.”

“Right across the street from the Mark Hopkins.”

“On my way.”

I walked down three flights, exited my humble apartment, and headed toward the bus stop on Dolores Ave., after stopping off at Whole Foods to get that first cup of java. It’s not a bad neighborhood and the best I can afford on a cop’s salary. I don’t own a car because it’s expensive and I hate driving and especially parking on hills, which is basically the whole city. Sure it’s inconvenient but I don’t care and if I have to go out of the metro area I can always grab an unmarked car at the station or catch a ride with a black & white. I could have called for a ride today but figured, hey, it’s a body; Mrs. O’Connell wasn’t going anywhere soon.

*   *   *

I checked out the colorful townhome in front of me, three stories high, contrasting painted wooden scrolling decorations at each level under six-by-five picture window; part of a string of houses connected like paper dolls all the way to the corner. The structure sat in perpetual shadows, dwarfed by the giant hotel across the street, like living on the dark side of the moon. Hard to believe a place like this with no yard, no garage, and no parking could set you back three to four million bucks.

I wondered if the 19 floors, 400 room, historic, hundred-year-old Mark Hopkins was there when they originally built this house, stealing their view of the city and the bay. Probably not, but wouldn’t you be pissed if it happened to you?

Cops had the placed taped off, but I ducked under and asked a uniformed patrolman for Captain Moran. He told me the third-floor bedroom, in front of the house. Great. More stairs to climb. No chance this old home has an elevator. I make the ascent and reach the crime scene. The coroner and the squints are all doing their thing, taking photos, swabbing for DNA and dusting for prints. There on the blood-stained sheet, naked, spread eagle and covered in white roses was a very dead Mrs. O’Connell, early thirties, not bad looking and pardon the crude expression, built like a brick house.

The Captain spotted me. “Where the hell have you been?”

“I took the scenic route.”

“When are you going to get a car?”

“When are you going to give me a raise?”

“You know I can assign you an unmarked vehicle on a permanent basis.”

“I got no place to park. Is there a Mr. O’Connell?”

“He’s sitting in the upstairs parlor being watched by one of our guys. He’s the one who found her.”

“You talk to him yet?”

“Saved him for you. He seems pretty shook up.”

“Any kids around?”

“Nope, second marriage for both.”

I left the gang to finish up and went to look for Mr. O’Connell. I found him sitting on a French style sofa, the kind with the curved arms; he was all bent over, elbows on his knees, holding his head with both hands. The patrolman greeted me when I walked into the room and the victim’s husband partially sat up. He had been crying and looked a little pale.

“How are you doing, Mr. O’Connell?”

“My wife is dead.”

“Yes, I know. Sorry for your loss. Mind if I ask you a few questions?”

“Who would do something like this? Did you see her?”

“How long have you been married, Mr. O’Connell?”

“Call me, John.” The middle-aged man with dark curly hair wiped his eyes with the back of his shirt, a custom job that matched the Armani suit coat lying beside him on the sofa. “About two years now. She worked with me at my company, Wright Brothers Air Freight.”

“The one by the airport?”

“That’s right.”

“Sorry to ask this, but was this a happy marriage?”

“I loved Shirley,” he protested, almost too over the top. “We dated almost two years before I proposed.”

“Were you still married to your first wife at the time?”

“What does that have to do with it?”

“Women get jealous.”

“Ann? Do this? Not a chance. She was getting hers on the side too…with another woman. She was happy to take half my money and go live on a beach somewhere. Besides, did you see all those roses? This had to be that serial killer.”

“Coroner estimates death at three a.m.; can I ask where you were at that time of night?”

“I was at the airport. We had a very important overnight shipment to get out and I wanted to supervise the loading personally. My manager, David Burns, can verify it.”

“Thank you, John. One final question, did Shirley have anyone in her life that she didn’t get along with a co-worker, a neighbor, a relative?”

“Shirley retired after we got married so I didn’t see her much during the day, except for a few lunches when I could get away. I’m not sure what she did, although she mentioned taking some type of exercise class…yoga, Zumba, no wait, I remember, it was kickboxing. She said she could work out her frustrations, build up her confidence, and lose weight at the same time. Shirley always worried about her looks, no matter how many times I told her she was beautiful.”

John started to weep. I again expressed my condolences after finding out from him that Shirley had an office in the house with a computer where she kept her calendar, checked emails, ordered stuff online, etc. I found her office and her Apple laptop and flipped up the lid…password protected of course…but searching through her purse turned up a “Just for Kicks” business card at a nearby address. I called the lab guys to break into the laptop and get me a copy of Shirley’s schedule for the past two months. I then told the Captain what I had found and that I was going to check out a lead at a place called “Just for Kicks.”

*   *   *

The owner, Diane, turned out to be an ex-Marine who ran the place with her wife Joyce, who acted as a receptionist and kept the books, while Diane taught all the classes. I watch her work out a group of six women, all shapes and sizes, while they took turns kicking the crap out of a punching bag that looked a lot like a man. Feeling a little intimidated, I managed to question each one about Shirley and got the same profile from each…nice lady, very friendly, they all liked to hang out together, do lunch, go to matinees, exchange gifts for birthdays and so forth. I asked Joyce for a list of all their members and while I was waiting, noticed on the counter a stack of postcards with a big red heart promising to find prospective clients their true love. The Internet address read www.pinkcupid.com. I stuck one in my jacket pocket.

*   *   *

Back at my desk at the station, I pulled up the site and read the pitch, a dating app exclusively for women. Brandy, another detective, caught me checking out some of the profiles and photos. “Hey, Dirk, forget it, you’re barking up the wrong tree. These ladies prefer mates on my side of the road.”

“Then you can help me out. They won’t give out any names or contact information unless you join and fill out a profile. I want you to sign up and look for a Shirley O’Connell. ”

After reimbursing Brandy the $25 to join, I went down to the computer guy to see how he was coming along. He had cracked the code, her birthday, and showed me the appointment calendar. What caught my eye was a series of three lunches with the same woman, Jane Hanson, including a rendezvous at Top of the Mark the day before the murder.

I found Brandy talking on her phone. “Yes, I’d love to…your apartment…today at 1 pm…sure.”

“What the hell, Brandy,” I said, “Who was that?”

“Jane Hanson. She pinged almost immediately after I set up my profile and wanted to meet. Here’s the interesting part, she shows up as a possible match on Shirley’s profile, as well as Debbie and Sally.”

“Our first two victims; you got an address?” Brandy nodded. “Let’s roll.”

*   *   *

We knocked on the door of apartment 17D in the Mission District.

“Who is it?” A smoky woman’s voice rang out.

“It’s me, Brandy.”

Jane, a wiry, model-tall, comely lady, dress in a see-through blouse and slacks, cautiously opened the door. “A girl can’t be too careful these days.” Seeing me she tried to slam the door shut, but I got my shoe stuck in the opening. Not easy. This was a strong, military-fit lady.

I flashed my badge. “Detectives Randolph and Peron. We’d like to ask you a few questions.”

We were reluctantly invited into the living room, nicely furnished, with a still-life painting over the mantle, a potted plant in the corner, matched set of easy chairs, and an antique mahogany table with a large vase filled with flowers. I felt like Perry Mason solving the mystery at the last minute as Jane’s hateful, hurt eyes flicked back and forth between Brandy and the vase. “You lied to me,” Jane said, and then turned to me…waiting for the accusation to fall…because when I saw the bouquet of seven roses, I knew exactly who had murdered Mrs. O’Connell. And so did Jane.

New Fiction in the New Year

Follow the comic adventures of Eli “I’m not supposed to be here” Jones as he is drafted into the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. Will he and the cast of characters he meets survive? Will the Army survive Eli?

Here is what the reviewers have said:

“If you enjoyed the movie “Stripes” then you will love the humor of this book.”

“Reading this is like being 17 again and having to face the issue of being drafted into the Vietnam war. It’s funny and insightful at the same time. It was like my own history—being naive and then finding yourself thrown into an adult world of the military during a troubled time in our history.”

“Despite his mantra of “I’m not supposed to be here,” Eli quickly adapts, making many new friends, including the cuddly Harry Horowitz, oil-rich Tex, hometown buddy Steve, the Professor, All-American college running back Sam, and the lovely Army Nurse Sara. They help Eli cope with the insane Battalion Commander (and Sara’s Dad), Colonel Clark, as well as overcome his bully Drill Sergeant “Must kill Eli” Wolinski.

Eli’s adventures continue through advanced infantry training at Fort “Lost in the Woods,” Missouri, as well as Infantry Officer Candidate School in Fort Benning, Georgia, where he meets up with “Mad Dog” Drummond, whose sole purpose in life is to make the candidates as miserable as himself. Eli keeps his wits about him while trying to survive everything from nude fire drills, a snake-charming stripper – Miss Tiger Tactics, Ranger training, wandering brass pickers and alligators in a Georgia swamp, to being buried alive in a Vietnamese P.O.W. camp simulation.”

“Veterans will enjoy the tale as well as they relive the military insanity and the very real dangerous situations men have to face in both training and combat. Something for the ladies as well, as we meet the lovely Army nurse Sara, and fellow lifeguard, Karen, who both fall in love with Eli and helps him out of several jams.”

Something for the ladies as well, as we meet the lovely Army nurse Sara, and fellow lifeguard, Karen, who both fall in love with Eli and helps him out of several jams.”

Click on the link below and take a peek at this tall tale with the Amazon “look inside” feature.


Christmas Songs That Should Be Banned.

First of all, we need to stop calling them “Christmas” songs. Despite being about the Christmas, it ignores the other yearend celebrations and shows bias toward this blatantly Christian holiday. I suggest  “Popular Non-Religious,” “Holiday,” or “Winter Solstice” songs. To my knowledge, nobody has any objections to “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem (unless it has to do with contested borders or population counts in zero BC and what constitutes a “little town” … ie does that make it a “village?”)


WDOK radio in Ohio, USA, started this debate by deciding to pull “Baby it’s Cold Outside” from its playlist because a listener was offended by the lyric “say, what’s in this drink?” It could be nutmeg, but we should assume it is some type of drug, especially in the version where a woman is singing to a man.

Another writer, I’m not sure of the source, has begun a list of other songs of the season that should also be banned from the airways or if not, whenever you hear them you should put a finger in each ear and very loudly say “na na na na na na na” until the tune is over.

Here is what he/she suggested (with some editing by me) of which songs should be banned and why…

1. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus: Exposes a young child to adultery and PDA
2. The Christmas Song: “Folks dressed up like Eskimos?” Stereotyping Native Americans and making fun of their traditional clothing.
3. Holly Jolly Christmas: “Kiss her once for me?” Promotes unwanted advances
4. Santa Claus is Coming to Town: “Sees you when you’re sleeping? Knows when you’re awake?” The entire song encourages becoming a peeping tom and a stalker
5. Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Demands you “be of good cheer.” What about my right to be depressed during the holidays?
6. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Another sad tale of bullying in school with no punishment for the offenders.
7. It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: Forced gender-specific gifts: dolls for Janice and Jen and boots and pistols for Barney and Ben. Why should Janice be denied an uzi for home defense if she really wants one?
8. Santa Baby: Paints a sexist picture of a woman as a gold digger and “Come and trim my Christmas tree” lyric…we all know what she is really suggesting.
9. Frosty the Snowman: Sexist…should be Frosty the “Snowperson.”
10. Do You Hear What I Hear?: totally ignores the deaf community
11. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: “Make the yuletide gay?” Just because this time of year we like to dress up, decorate, and host fabulous parties…there is no need for labels…and they repeat it several times.
12. Jingle Bell Rock: “Giddy-up jingle horse, pick up your feet Jingle around the clock” Animal abuse!!!…forcing this poor horse to run for 24 hours without rest or food and in winter, yet. “Rocking around the Chrismas Tree?” Very dangerous and gets the kids all riled up when they are already too excited.
13. Winter Wonderland: Parson Brown asking if they are married…what business is it of his?  Invasion of your personal space. And “We’ll have lots of fun with mister snowman until the other kids knock him down.” Vandalism!


Maybe if we changed the lyrics of these songs to more politically correct verbiage they would be more acceptable (and many more…probably all of them… need to be rewritten to the new standards).

Or we could just stop listening to popular Christmas songs and turn to Gregorian chants in Latin so we can’t understand the lyrics.

Or we could stop whining, evaluating, and assuming every word is sinister and just enjoy the music as we sit by the open fire (hopefully in a safe firepit on a non-windy day), roasting our chestnuts (is that dirty?), and toasting the new year (which has to be better than 2018) while enjoying our Hanukkah bush, Kwanzaa candles, and Christmas wreath, after donning our gay apparel (blame Deck the Halls).

In closing, Happy Holidays, May the Force Be With You, and finally, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

Old Sayings (that nobody says anymore)

I started thinking about this the other day and decided to start writing down sayings from my youth. How many do you remember? Do you have any to add? Please do so in the comments and I will share!  PART TWO:

  • Cute as a button
  • Cold as a witch’s teat in a brass bra
  • No such thing as a free lunch
  • The devil made me do it
  • You bet your bippy
  • Sock it to me
  • A stitch in time saves nine
  • United we stand; Divided we fall
  • There are no atheists in foxholes
  • The pen is mightier than the sword
  • Two beers short of a six-pack
  • Dumber than a post
  • A penny saved is a penny earned
  • You are what you eat
  • Turn a blind eye
  • As old as the hills
  • Older than dirt
  • Out with the old; In with the new
  • Funny as a screen door in a submarine
  • Funny as a pay toilet in a diarrhea ward
  • Smart as a whip
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
  • Penny-wise; Pound-foolish
  • Can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs
  • Action speaks louder than words
  • People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw rocks
  • Like shooting fish in a barrel
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence
  • Birds of a feather flock together
  • If the shoe fits, wear it
  • The early bird gets the worm
  • If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen
  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease
  • Can’t judge a book by the cover
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder
  • Spare the rod, spoil the child

There are more…should I do another blog on this?  Do you have any of your favorites to add?


What’s On My Bookshelf

woman reading harry potter book
Photo by Dids on Pexels.com

I saw this on Naty’s Bookshelf and it looked like fun. Here’s what this tag is all about… looking on your bookshelf and choosing a book which fits each category.


  • Link back to Naty’s blog site so she can see everyone’s answers
  • Link back to the person who tagged you
  • Name one book for each category; try not to repeat books
  • Tag at least 5 people

A library book

Ashamed to say I haven’t been to a library in years. I got lazy and either get free Kindle copies or buy them online. I did borrow a paperback copy of “The Stand” by Stephen King, the unabridged version, 1150 pages. Does that count?

A book you got as a gift

Been awhile since anyone gave me an actual book as a gift. Author friends will send me e-copies to read so I can write a review, but that’s more of a trade since they do the same for my books. Last “gift” book I can remember is “Great Political Wit,” signed by the author, Bob Dole.

A childhood book

That’s easy. My first “adult” book I got from the library & read when I was about 8 or 9, was “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain.

A magical book

The Harry Potter series would be the obvious answer, but I first read the “Lord of the Rings” series in the early 70’s, including “The Hobbit” and even attempted to get through “The Silmarillion” all authored by J.R.R. Tolkien.

A romantic book

I don’t do “romantic” books or what some people call mommy porn. I do like romantic comedies in the movies, some of which might have been a book at one point, like “It Happened One Night,” “Sleepless in Seattle,” “An Affair to Remember,” and “When Harry Met Sally,” all of which I own on DVD.

A steamy book

“Tom Jones” the story of a foundling by Henry Fielding. This was also a fun movie starring Albert Finney. Rent it and check out the eating scene–erotic and gross at the same time!

An old book

I love the classics and have several on my shelf, some first editions: “Tarzan the Terrible” by Edgar Rice Burrows, “Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemmingway (I have his autograph!), “Great Expectations” and “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens, and “The Count of Monte Christo” by Alexander Dumas.

A book that makes you laugh

“When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops” by George Carlin is a killer.

A book that makes you emotional

Any book that costs over $10 makes me cry unless it’s one of mine on a 60/40 split.

A book whose ending you dislike

I’ve tried to read quite a few of the free monthly books that you get with Amazon Prime, and several I couldn’t even get to the end to see if I disliked it, because I already disliked the beginning and the middle. I’ll list no names because it’s not that easy to write a good book that everybody loves.

A book you wish had illustrations

“The Complete Kama Sutra” by Alain Danielou.

A book or genre you love reading when it’s raining

Well…since it never rains in southern California so I wouldn’t get to read any books very often, so I’ll just share my favorite genres…Science Fiction, Fantasy, Mystery, and Thrillers…really anything with a lot of action, good characters, and intriguing storyline.

I tag…








Old Sayings (that nobody says anymore)

I started thinking about this the other day and decided to start writing down sayings from my youth. How many do you remember? Do you have any to add? Please do so in the comments and I will share!  PART ONE:

  • You sound like a broken record
  • If you had a brain, you’d take it out and play with it.
  • That’s the way the cookie crumbles
  • Never look a gift horse in the mouth
  • No sense crying over spilt milk
  • Beggers can’t be choosers
  • Penny saved is a penny earned
  • That’s water under the bridge
  • Bright eyed and bushy tailed
  • It takes two to tango
  • A few beers short of a six-pack
  • Slicker than silk (alternative “snot”)
  • Chew the fat
  • Deader than a doornail
  • Happy as a lark
  • Happy as a pig in slop
  • Going on a bender
  • I’m feeling right as rain
  • God willing and the creek don’t rise
  • A day late and a dollar short
  • Mean as a junkyard dog
  • Don’t let the door hit you on the way out
  • Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry
  • Colder than a bare butt on a brass bedpan
  • No guts, no glory
  • Like trying to find a needle in a haystack
  • May hay while the sun shines
  • Preaching to the choir
  • What’s good for the goose is good for the gander
  • Run like the devil is after you
  • Somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea

I’ll be back for part two in the blink of an eye…

The Entertainer Blogger Award

The Entertainer Blogger Award



Thanks so much to Ana Rocha from https://cookthebeans.com for nominating me for this award. Please visit her blog If you want to know more about travel, food, vegan cooking & eating, and recipes from all over the planet. Very educational and entertaining.

Why did you start blogging in the first place? 

I have always been a writer. Professionally for many years as a journalist and in public relations, but also writing fiction on the side, short stories and eventually two novels (working on the third). I also love to travel and take photos. One of my blog series is call 50 states/50 countries and it gives me a chance to share photos from around the globe.

What is your favorite book?

Love to read. Got my first library card in the 4th grade. Beyond the Hardy Boys, one “adult” book got me hooked and remains a favorite…A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain

What do you dislike the most?

People arguing politics on Facebook.

What is your favourite food at the mall?

Has to be sushi.

What is your favorite pastime?

Three main areas would be: writing/photography; playing bass guitar & singing with my 60’s cover band, Revolution Road; acting on stage, TV and film.






Congrats to all nominees 💚 Can’t wait to read your replies.


  • Thank the person who nominated you add link to their blog
  • Add the rules, so others can follow
  • Nominate people who you find fun, inspiring and entertaining!
  • Answer the same questions
  • Include the graphic in your post