A homeless man in a glass coffin, that’s all Jo Sullivan was looking for, some new material for her column in Winds of Change, a weekly rag willing to dust the dirt off the seamier side of Chicago. But after she nearly turns a street kid into a hood ornament, the tip dropped by a fifteen year old prostitute starts to look more like a front page two inch headline. When the young girl disappears, her friend Chris hints of a room filled with corpses on display like an exhibit at a wax museum, and Jo and Chris team up to uncover the truth behind Sloan and Whiteside’s funeral home.
Lexie Green has been selling herself for drug money ever since her mama kicked her out at thirteen. A dope sick street kid will do anything to get high again. Anything to scratch the itchy palms, ease the stomach cramps, control the vomiting. But when she’s asked to pose nude with a bizarre collection of freeze-dried corpses–the freak show seems too much to face alone.
Christopher Robert Young, Cry for short, couldn’t use addiction as an excuse. He told himself he went with Lexie to keep her safe, that it had nothing to do with his struggle to avoid hustling along the harbor like Tito and the others. Selling blowjobs for forty bucks, however, pales in comparison to the macabre scene he finds at the funeral home where they freeze dry the dead like special order pizzas.
Until she met Lexie and Chris, reporter Jo Sullivan’s column was just a job to pay the bills. But haunted by the memory of Lexie’s haunting eyes and eerie tale, Jo finds herself caught up in the lives of those homeless people she used to just write about. As they unravel the twisted mystery, Jo can’t help comparing the dark heart of the city with the dark shadows in her own family’s past.
What People Are Saying:
“Painted Black is about the young faces we see on the streets, covered in dirt, wearing worn out clothes, shrouded in looks of hate, pride, and fear…. There isn’t a part of this book you don’t feel, it reaches into your core…. There are many enjoyable books out there, but there aren’t many that make you feel, make you think, make you sit back and contemplate the uglier side of life we try so hard to ignore its existence. This was a very well written book on all accounts.” —Darian Wilk, author of Love Unfinished and Reinventing Claire
“This is a crime/suspense/mystery kind of book, but at the forefront are all the characters that Debra R Borys portrays so well. This was one of those books where you start reading and before you can even blink you are almost done with it. I was so caught up with the characters of this book……Painted Black was a great story and I am glad I got a chance to read it!” —Danielle at The To Be Read Pile
“Painted Black is the rare book of its genre that avoids cliche. At her best, the author is reminiscent of early Ed McBain. She does an excellent job of showing us the trials of homeless youth without feeling like a PSA, and once the main plot starts rolling, the text becomes a fast, effortless read as you plow through to get to the next scene, and the next.” —Robert’s Reviews on Goodreads
“Kudos to author Deb Borys for weaving an edge-of-the-seat story around such sordidness. Very real characters, a fast pace, pithy dialogs……The book left a lingering impression long after I finished reading.” —Jayant Swamy on Amazon Reviews
“Painted Black has a Silence of the Lamb’s feeling about it…..there’s something dark and ominous going on here.…. Fiction can be a great vehicle for exposing the darker side of the human experience in ways that are both important and meaningful and I think that Painted Black fits into this category.” —Quinn Barrett, Wise Bear Books All Things Digital Podcast
She let Keisha do most of the talking as Jo drove. The night view going north along Lake Shore Drive always drew her eye. The dark distance across the water to her right, the city lights like stars on a geometric horizon ahead. Energizing. Intriguing. Inviting.
Finding a parking space vented the rest of Jo’s anger. She could even grin as she gave a driver the finger for nosing out too far in the walkway they had to cross. He responded with a bored flip of his own.
Then she noticed Keisha had stopped. She was staring at something across Broadway.
Street lights washed out the blink of green neon from the Hotel Chateau. Most of the windows had drapes drawn closed; half of them hung crooked on their rods. Near the entrance stood a young woman, hands in the pockets of a short jacket with the collar turned up. When the girl noticed them, she hurried around the corner.
“Lexie,” Keisha called and headed after her. Jo followed. “Alexis, I know it’s you. Quit trying to get away.” To Jo, she added, “She’s just a kid.”
When the girl turned and waited with a sullen expression, Jo saw what Keisha meant. Despite the reek of perfume, thick layers of eye shadow, and mascara that turned her lashes into tarantula legs, she could not have been older than fifteen.
They stood by a playground of brightly painted equipment. Swing sets, slides and climbing bars strong and sturdy and still unrusted. By contrast, through a window of the pockmarked hotel behind the park, faded wallpaper hung in strips.
“I didn’t do nothing,” the girl said.
“Look at you.” Keisha waved to emphasize her point. Under Lexie’s jacket, a black tube top clung to her breasts. The leather mini-skirt wrapped around her hips looked so tight Jo thought it must hurt.
“What?” Lexie said, avoiding eye contact. “I’m not doing nothing wrong,” she said again.
“I don’t like seeing you here, Lexie,” Keisha said quietly. “I wish you had somewhere to stay.”
“Yeah, well–” Lexie looked down. “–I don’t.”
Now Jo understood. Despite Keisha’s often hectic schedule, she found time to volunteer at the Night Moves Center for homeless youth. She identified with them because she almost ended up one of them. Raised on the South Side, struggling financially, only her mother’s love and strong will had saved her.
Jo studied Lexie in the dim light. She looked half child, half whore. Skin as dark as freshly-turned top soil, hair drawn back, finely curved cheek bones. Her jaw jutted out defiantly. A large man’s hand could have wrapped around her throat with fingers nearly touching thumb.
“Stop by the Center tomorrow, okay?” Keisha reached out and tucked a stray curl behind Lexie’s ear. “It’s my day to work. We can talk.”
“Yeah, sure.” Lexie still studied the sidewalk.
Keisha put a hand on her arm to get her to look up. “I mean it,” she said. “I’ll worry if you don’t come.”
Keisha earned her living as a model. Most people only saw the perfect, coppery complexion, the fine figure, the stylish clothes. But at that moment, Lexie looked at Keisha the way someone dying of thirst looked at a glass of water.
“Lunchtime tomorrow,” Keisha continued. “I’ll be waiting.” She touched the girl’s arm again and Lexie nodded agreement. “Good. Now take care, you hear?” Jo and Keisha started to turn away.
“Wait.” The word seemed to rush out of Lexie before she could think. They looked back. “I was wondering if, you know, if you could–” she looked at Jo, then quickly back at Keisha. “Could you buy me something to eat, maybe? I’m awful hungry.”
Jo had a second to picture this half naked child seated at a corner table set with fine linen and Waterford crystal before Keisha said, “How about a burrito?”
Learn more or purchase your copy at: