Title: The Monuments Men Murders (The Art of Murder 4)
Author: Josh Lanyon
Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing
Release Date: June 30, 2019
Genre(s): Contemporary Suspense
Page Count: 199
Someone is watching. Someone is waiting.
Despite having attracted the attention of a dangerous stalker, Special Agent Jason West is doing his best to keep his mind on his job and off his own troubles.
But his latest case implicates one of the original Monuments Men in the theft and perhaps destruction of part of the world’s cultural heritage–a lost painting by Vermeer. Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander Emerson Harley wasn’t just a World War 2 hero, he was the grandfather Jason grew up idolizing. In fact, Grandpa Harley was a large part of what inspired Jason to join the FBI’s Art Crime Team.
Learning that his legendary grandfather might have turned a blind eye to American GIs “liberating” priceless art treasures at the end of the war is more than disturbing. It’s devastating.
Jason is determined to clear his grandfather’s name, even if that means breaking a few rules and regulations himself–putting him on a collision course with romantic partner BAU Chief Sam Kennedy.
Meanwhile, someone in the shadows is biding his time…
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The Art of Murder Series
Fear was tiring.
Anger was preferable.
They were both draining.
Not that he was afraid all the time—most days he was too busy to really think about whether he was in danger, but sometimes at night, yes. Less so when he was away from home sweet home, which was ironic.
For a minute or two Special Agent Jason West of the FBI’s Art Crime Team lay motionless, eyes probing the gloom of his Bozwin Montana hotel room, absently listening to—classifying—the nearby ice machine dumping its load, the gunning of a flooded engine in the parking lot, the clicking over of one luminous number in the clock on the nightstand.
Make that 3:44.
He could always phone Sam. Even if by some chance Behavior Analysis Unit Chief Sam Kennedy was asleep, he’d take Jason’s call.
Most likely he was awake.
Though Sam was halfway across the country, the thought of him comforted Jason. He could picture Sam, the glow from his computer monitor highlighting his craggy, not-quite-handsome face. Broad shoulders and hard, taut muscles beneath one of those severely tailored white shirts. At this time of night it would be unbuttoned, his shirtsleeves rolled up. He’d be wearing the gold-wire glasses Jason found peculiarly sexy and that distant, meditative look as he read over the day’s bad news.
Tomorrow Sam would be in Montana.
Tomorrow they’d be together for the first time in three weeks. They’d met for a spontaneous (on Jason’s part) and very brief Memorial Day get-together. Before that it had been eight weeks since they’d been in the same room together.
Long-distance relationships were never easy, and this one had more challenges than most. Still, it was better than the alternative. They had come painfully close to the alternative too many times to take it lightly.
If Sam was asleep, he needed the rest, and Jason resisted the longing to hear his voice for a few minutes. He had already called him once this week. He didn’t want Sam thinking the strain was getting to him.
But yeah, of course the strain was getting to him.
Not during the day, not while he was working.
But Dr. Jeremy Kyser had the key to Jason’s dreams, and more evenings than not, he opened the door to Jason’s subconscious and strolled right in. Mostly, it was just a lurking sense of unease, worry. Jason spent a lot of dreamtime looking for Kyser’s lost case file or a missing-person report; it didn’t take a shrink to interpret any of that.
Other nights—like this one—Jason relived some version of his narrow escape from attempted abduction, and woke drenched in perspiration and gulping for air like a landed fish.
The details of the assault remained sketchy in his memory, so he was never sure which, if any, of his nightmares offered a true version of events. He just knew he woke scared and angry, and no end to it in sight.
He reached for the remote control on the bed stand and turned on the television. Late-night TV was his new best friend. There was some crazy old black and white movie on—something to do with a stage magician having marital problems—and Jason folded his arms more comfortably behind his head and settled in, prepared to occupy himself for a few sleepless hours.
The movie, Eternally Yours, reminded Jason of the last time he and Sam had worked together. Well, they had not really been working together. Jason had been recuperating from injuries sustained fighting off Kyser, and Sam had been determined to oversee the process.
Anyway, his memories of the stay with Sam’s mother were good, the movie was pleasantly goofy, and he was content with the way the case had turned out in Wyoming. By the time the Cheyenne Resident Agency had managed to get their search warrants, the magician community of Laramie County had pulled off their own Top Hat White Rabbit. And maybe that was the way it was supposed to go.
Sam did not agree with Jason’s thinking on that score, and it was a given he would not approve of what Jason was hoping to accomplish in Montana. Which was why Jason was planning to get this case wrapped up without ever having to ad—
His cell phone vibrated into life—and Jason vibrated with it. He was immediately aggravated with his jump. He swore, grabbed the phone, growled, “West.”
“Agent West,” Sam said smoothly. His voice was deep, softened around the edges by a hint of Western drawl. “Did I wake you?”
Somewhere along the line, “West,” used when they were on their own, had become kind of a pet name.
Jason relaxed into the pillows. “No. I was just thinking about you.”
“You might have felt a tingle at the base of your spine.”
Sam’s laugh was quiet, intimate. “You’re in a playful mood.”
“I am, yeah. Looking forward to tomorrow night.”
Jason closed his eyes for a moment, grateful. There had been a time he wouldn’t have dared take it for granted that if he and Kennedy were sharing air space, they’d be together every possible moment.
Sam sipped something on the other end. Jason smiled faintly, waiting.
Sam asked thoughtfully, “You want to talk?”
Jason admitted, “Not really.”
“You want to listen?”
“Yeah. I want to listen to you talk dirty to me.” He was kidding, of course, but not entirely. No point pretending he wouldn’t like the relief and relaxation that came from sex. Any kind of sex. Sam was not much for dirty talk, especially over the airwaves, but it didn’t hurt to ask.
“I should be in the office by noon.”
“Okay. I’ll see you there at some point.”
“Yes, you will. So save the last dance for me.”
Jason grinned into the darkness. On the flickering television screen, David Niven had just managed the ultimate feat of magic by saving his marriage.
“Safe travels,” Jason said. He did not want to hang up. Did not want to sever this tenuous connection.
Sam answered, “Sweet dreams, West.”
“Hey, isn’t that Martinez?” J.J. asked.
They were having breakfast in a restaurant not far from the Holiday Inn while waiting for their complainant, a Dutch investigator specializing in stolen art. The plan was to compare notes before heading out to interview Bert Thompson. Thompson, who ran a dude ranch in the next county, was the nephew of the recently deceased Roy Thompson, prime suspect in the theft of priceless art treasures during the final days of World War II.
“Hm?” Jason looked up from his coffee mug. Another cup and he might feel almost human. Or at least awake. His sleepless nights were catching up to him—although last night there had been a bright side to the insomnia.
He followed J.J.’s gaze to the café’s hostess stand, where a man and woman dressed in that particular brand of budget-conscious business attire that proclaimed law-enforcement officers! waited to be seated.
Jason’s mind was mostly on the upcoming meet with Hans de Haan, their contact. He vaguely remembered being introduced to Special Agent Martinez at the Bozwin resident agency the previous afternoon. She was a petite woman, probably early thirties, with very short dark hair and big brown eyes. Certainly attractive, though not J.J.’s usual type. Typically, Jason’s partner went for statuesque blondes whose life ambition was a full page in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.
“Yeah.” J.J. slid out of the booth. “I’ll ask them to join us.”
He didn’t wait for Jason’s reply, leaving the table and going to greet the newcomers.
Jason mentally sighed. Technically, J.J. was still a first office agent. Not probationary, but still pretty green—although he’d had one hell of a first year, even excluding the time partnered with Jason. They’d been paired since February. Four long months. At first, Jason had been sure one of them was going to end the year in jail on homicide charges, but they had eventually settled into a functional and not unfriendly partnership. They were very different personality types, and J.J. believed his talents were wasted by his being shackled to the LA Field Office’s Art Crime Team agent—and Jason wholeheartedly agreed, though for different reasons.
He lifted a hand in greeting when the two agents looked over at the table.
J.J. ushered Martinez and her partner through the crowded dining room. Jason rose. Martinez, smelling of Vera Wang (which Jason’s sister Sophie wore) slid into the empty booth, her partner slid in beside her, and Jason waited so that J.J. could position himself across from his quarry.
The male agent, who introduced himself as SA Travis Petty, looked to Jason to be a bit younger than him, tall, blond, and muscular. He could have commanded his own SI layout.
“Good to meet you, West,” he said. And then, “You were with Sam Kennedy in Massachusetts.”
Jason studied him. “I was.”
Yes, Petty was very good-looking. Blue eyes, square jaw, boyish thatch of springy light hair. As a matter of fact, he looked like a 1950s poster boy for the manly-occupation-of-your-choice.
Petty’s smile was white and rueful. “What an opportunity. To work with Sam on his last case as a field agent.”
“It was a learning experience.”
Not BAU Chief Kennedy, but Sam Kennedy. In fact, just plain old Sam, which, given Sam’s general reputation in field offices and resident agencies, seemed to imply an unexpected social connection. Or, at the very least, an out of the ordinary interest in the legendary BAU Chief.
“I was part of the Deerlodge Destroyer task force he headed two years ago. It was really enlightening.”
“I bet,” Jason said.
The disturbing case Petty was referring to was why Sam happened to be in Montana at the same time as Jason. The capture of a serial killer who had been using the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest as his personal hunting ground had been one of Sam’s final field assignments and, being Sam, he was following it to its final conclusion, helping the local team finalize their court case. Delegation was not and had never been his default setting.
“You’re also Art Crime Team?” Martinez asked J.J. She had a pretty smile, but then tall, dark, and handsome Russell brought out the pretty smiles in women, young and old.
Jason said, “It’s more of a hostage situation in Russell’s case,” and the others—including Russell—laughed.
“He thinks he’s kidding,” Russell said.
“Yeah, no I don’t.”
Petty said, “I can tell you one thing, if there’s ever an opening on his team, I’m going for it.”
Jason smiled politely. Back to Sam, because no way was Petty talking about signing on with Jason or the ACT. It was doubtful he even registered on Petty’s consciousness beyond being someone who had spent significant time with Sam.
He glanced at Martinez, who was eyeing her partner with affectionate resignation.
J.J. said, “You know, you’re talking to Kennedy’s BFF.”
BFF could have meant exactly that—best buds—but Martinez’s instant, “Oh,” indicated she’d interpreted correctly. As did Petty, given his almost comical change of expression.
Jason directed a look at J.J., who said, “Hey, it’s the truth.”
Petty’s mouth curved, but that was as far as the smile went. “Lucky you,” he said.
Bestselling author of over sixty titles of classic Male/Male fiction featuring twisty mystery, kickass adventure and unapologetic man-on-man romance, JOSH LANYON has been called “arguably the single most influential voice in m/m romance today.” Granted, that was yesterday.
Today Josh’s work has been translated into nine languages. The FBI thriller Fair Game was the first male/male title to be published by Harlequin Mondari, the largest romance publisher in Italy. The Adrien English series was awarded the 2nd Annual All Time Favorite Male Male Couple by the Goodreads M/M Group. Josh is an Eppie Award winner, a four-time Lambda Literary Award finalist for Gay Mystery, and the first ever recipient of the Goodreads Favorite M/M Author Lifetime Achievement award.
Josh is married and lives in Southern California.