"This city gets to a man. Maybe it's all the busted dreams and the way they seep into the pavement like acid rain, bleaching the color out of things..."
It's 1947, the streets are filthy with grease and empty promises, and private detective Colt Coltrane trolls the city for cheaters and deadbeats with his robotic sidekick Petey. It's all business as usual until a mysterious Japanese woman walks into his office asking him to look into a string of grisly murders along the L.A. River, where the only trace the killer leaves behind, other than a mutilated female victim, is a single white lotus flower.
But there is far more to this dame than meets the eye, and Colt's quest to find the Lotus Killer soon leads him to shocking and terrifying secrets lurking beneath Los Angeles.
A pulpy mix of the past, present, and future, COLT COLTRANE AND THE LOTUS KILLER is a non-stop thrill unlike any you've seen before.
I'm a sucker for the hard-boiled detective standing between his grimy city and its final plunge into total darkness. Then give him an ass-kicking robot sidekick who seems more Studebaker than Terminator? I simply cannot look away. The fact that it was a great story to boot was just icing on the cake. – Jefferson Smith
"A tale to pull you in with its extremely well written prose, its cast of intriguing characters and maybe the most constant of her writing skills, Allison's impeccable sense of pace and timing as crunch time approaches."– Amazon Reviewer
"With an array of colorful characters, perfect timing, and spectacular character development, Allison M. Dickson draws you in to the world of Colt and Petey. A dark, slimy underbelly of a world."– Hobbes End Reviews
"The plot has satisfying twists and turns, especially when the 40's-era tech gets involved. And the characters are convincingly drawn. Coltrane is a likable EverySleuth with a messy past, a cracking-wise secretary, and a robot partner who is much more than he seems. And secondary characters aren't neglected. The scrap recovery mastermind and his off-kilter supplier are gems of characterization. As for the dame with the legs ... I'll leave it to you to make her acquaintance."– Amazon Reviewer
We'd been running surveillance on Curly Stottlemeyer, the producer of high quality films like My Zombie Bride and Garter Belt Vigilante. His old lady gave me the rundown on her man's after dark activities in a tear-filled office visit a couple weeks back: phone calls in the middle of the night, lots of late nights at the office, even when he wasn't scheduled to be on set, perfume on his shirts. It was the standard philanderer's laundry list, but after two weeks of taking pictures and Petey using his bot magic to tap into the mark's phone calls, the only dames I ever saw Stottlemeyer with were the queens of diamonds, hearts, spades, and clubs, in an underground poker club frequented by Hollywood's A-list crowd. Bets started in the money to burn range and it was the sort of place a man of Curly Stottlemeyer's C-list pedigree had no business being. Clearly someone was funding his bad habits, and once I started seeing Italian goons sniffing around his office, I figured who and how much he was into them for. Ten grand. In light of the sort of trouble her man was in, the missus probably would have preferred to hear he was slipping it to his secretary after all.
We were just taking one more sift through Curly's office dumpster for receipts and other financial castaways when the riff-raff showed up. Petey heard them first with those fancy sensors in his ears, and the whine of his servos made me look up from my handful of shredded bank statements. A couple of grinning Italians, one of them I recognized as Rubio Franzini, stood a few feet away. Rubio wasn't anywhere near the top of the food chain, but a made guy with the Milano family wasn't anyone to balk at either. Organized crime wasn't my department when I was on the force, but you didn't work the law in this town without becoming acquainted with the heavy hitters, or the ones padding the paychecks of your coworkers. Even the good guys knew to shut their mouths if they wanted to keep their pensions. I won't lie and say I was a white knight. Given my disgraceful departure from the LAPD, my acceptance of a few small bribes now and then was the least of my transgressions. People talk about law and order like it's black and white, good and bad, but it's all a bunch of gray sludge up close.
Life as a P.I. was even worse. No respectability, no way to leverage the crooks to get what you want unless you wanted to break the law yourself. I was a gutter rat bringing back cheese for bigger rats, with the help of a mechanical sidekick. You did what you could for the money and if it meant trespassing across a few ordinances and Constitutional amendments in the process, you just did it when no one was looking. It was all about survival.
Rubio Franzini grinned when we made eye contact, a gold canine gleaming in the weak sunlight. He wore a nice enough suit, but it couldn't hide the fact that ten years ago he was just a punk kid from San Pedro who thought he could be the next Mickey Cohen. "Those're a couple of funny lookin' rats in the dumpster, ain't they Donnie?"
I didn't recognize the one called Donnie, but he had a face only a mother could love if she was blind. Acne, bad shave, suit about two sizes too small for his ham-like shoulders, and a deep crease where his fat forehead met the bridge of his nose like two colliding continents. He grunted his agreement with Rubio. Clearly not the talker of the duo.
"Something you two need?" I said. "We're a little busy here."
Rubio took another step toward the dumpster. "You're Coltrane, right? Yeah, I remember you in the papers. Ex-cop who shot his old lady."
The little weasel was enjoying himself, but I wasn't going to give him the pleasure. Not yet anyway. "Lemme guess. You're looking for Curly Stottlemeyer," I said.
"Just so happens I am. Looks like you're busy sniffing out some of his breadcrumbs too. What say we help each other out a little?"
"Help each other out. Ain't that mobster speak for 'gimme what you got or I kill you?'"
"Yeah, I guess you could say that."
I wasn't hired to protect Stottlemeyer from his debtors, and standing waist-deep in someone else's garbage didn't exactly put me in a tough guy kind of mood. Staying off the bad side of this mug and the Milano crime family in general was also on my to-do list, even if it meant giving up the guy whose wife was paying me to spy. Maybe that sounds cowardly, but again, survival was always my goal.
"He left for lunch a half hour ago. Twenty-One Club. If you leave now, you'll probably catch him halfway through his Oysters Rockefeller."
"See, Donnie? Wife-shooting gumshoes can be useful after all." They turned to go, but Rubio held up his hand and whirled back around. "Hey Coltrane, seeing your fancy little bot there reminded me of something. I know you're friends with Clutch McIntyre down at the Parts Bin. Tell him he owes the boss money for dry cleaning. That grease pit club ruined his good suit the other night."
"Why don't you tell him yourself? I ain't Ricky Milano's errand boy. Thought that was your job." I might have been pragmatic enough to cough up some information, but I wasn't going to be Rubio's sucker.
A shadow passed over Rubio's weasel face and he and Donnie both took a few more steps toward the dumpster, Rubio pulling back his expensive coat to show the piece I already knew he had strapped there. I doubted he had a permit for that, but what did it matter to me? I wasn't a cop anymore.
"You wanna watch your mouth, Coltrane. You ain't in a position to talk that way to nobody no more. From what I hear, the boys down at the station wouldn't piss on you if you was on fire."
"You want to watch yourself too, Rubio. My friend here is a little sensitive to threats. Let me do you the courtesy of making sure your head stays intact."
Rubio laughed. "I seen a million of them tin cans around the streets. The only thing they seem any good at is guzzling up oil and blowing smoke out their asses."
"This bot is a little different," I said. "Go ahead. See for yourself."
Rubio reached for his pistol and Petey's eyes flashed yellow. "THREAT DETECTED. DISARM PROTOCOL ENGAGED."
Six feet of steel, wire, and bolts vaulted through the air like something made of feathers, leaving an avalanche of garbage in its wake. I couldn't call Petey back with a simple command. When he was in protection mode, you had to flip a switch in his guts to deactivate him, or wait until the threat was neutralized. But that wasn't going to go very well for any of us if I let that happen. Rubio's face went white with terror and he stumbled back, but the bot's articulated steel fingers, attached to an arm that was nearly as long as a tall man's leg, wrapped around Rubio's collar before he could get away.
"Petey, stand down!" I yelled anyway. The report of gunfire filled the alleyway, followed by the ping of a ricochet. A bullet fragment lodged itself into the brick about six inches from my head, creating a small plume of dust that settled onto my shoulder. Donnie stood there for a second with a smoking .38 shaking in his fat hands, and that was all the time Petey needed to snatch the pistol away. I heard a crunch of bone followed by Donnie's screams.
"Son of a bitch broke my hand!"
I leaped out of the dumpster and ran over. "That's enough, Petey."
"Call the bastard off, Coltrane!" Rubio's voice was shaking and that made me happy.
"Not yet." I reached forward and pulled the nickel-plated 1911 from Rubio's holster. After that, I opened the panel on Petey's back and toggled the switch from "Protect" to "Observe."
"Take a break, Petey."
"AFFIRMATIVE, DETECTIVE COLTRANE. STANDING DOWN." The yellow flare went out of his eyes and he stood erect again, letting Rubio go but keeping hold of the other mook's gun. I noticed a piddle of lubricant dripping from Petey's shoulder. The bullet must have nicked something in the joint. Looked like more repairs were in my future.
Rubio was fit to spit nails. "You tell that metal bastard to step back, Coltrane!"
"He ain't gonna hurt you. Unless I say so." But I told Petey to step back a few feet anyway, just to make the situation a little less tense.
Rubio brushed himself off and tried to straighten his tie, but it was a lost cause. Petey had nearly ripped the collar clean off and the tie was hanging down like a mutilated snake. "We ain't done talking, you and me. And whatever Stottlemeyer's bitch is paying you, we own. We own every cent that fat fuck has."
"I'll be ready when you come to collect," I said. "Petey, give this idiot back his piece. Empty."
Petey opened the cylinder and dumped the bullets out onto the ground before clicking it shut again and tossing it to Donnie. He fumbled the catch but managed to hold onto it.
Rubio tugged on Donnie's elbow. "C'mon, Donnie. We need to have a meeting with the boss about a new scrap metal venture." He eyeballed Petey with some caution before backing down the alley. When they reached the corner, both men turned and fled.
I brushed off my suit, a useless gesture. Even if I didn't smell like Curly Stottlemeyer's tuna sandwich from yesterday, I was now covered in enough bot grease to paint the side of the building black. Hazard of the job. "I don't think we made any new friends just now, Petey."
Of course, the bot didn't have a brain sophisticated enough to respond to that, but the oil that squirted from his busted shoulder and hit my cheek was all the answer I needed. I pulled the handkerchief out of my pocket. It was filthy like the rest of me, but better than nothing. "Let's head back to HQ," I said. "I have a feeling the Stottlemeyer job is over."