Thursday, April 18, 2019

Wally and Me (Part 1 of 2 Parts)


dontravis.com blog post #333

Courtesy of Pixels
Thanks to Don Morgan for his guest blog last week, featuring his novel Sourwater Slough. I almost felt I was back home in Oklahoma.

This week, let’s have a short story that comes in two parts. I hope you enjoy it.

*****
WALLY AND ME


          Wally Hamner was the proverbial “boy next door,” the guy who was always there. We grew up together like that… next door. "Two peas in a pod," my dad used to say. We played together in diapers and in shorts and in big boy long pants. We were buds even though he had me by a year. It hurt a little when he got interested in sports and developed other friendships. But I adjusted and came to grips with it.
          What I had that the others didn’t was proximity. Proximity and history. It was easy to hop the fence and join me in the back yard and pick up a conversation from yesterday or the day before after he returned from this excursion or that. We talked with an ease that neither of us had with anyone else. I knew his ambitions—to be a fighter pilot—as well as his aspirations—to marry Mary Sue Klonheim and build her the biggest house in town. I knew his fears—snakes—and his joys—double chocolate milk shakes in addition to Mary Sue.
          The summer between our junior and senior years, respectively, I came to comprehend how I served him. I was his conscience, the brake to his recklessness. I was his anchor. Strange, because he was older than me. Maybe it was because I wasn’t willing to jump out of a moving car on a dare or let someone shoot a pencil out of my mouth. I wasn’t as audacious as he was. I was the one to back off when things went too far. One of the best things about Wally was that even if he didn’t follow my example, he respected it and never talked down to me because of my natural passivity, as he called it. He’d always say something like “Oh, come on, Bobby, what’s it gonna hurt?” But when I balked, he never held it against me. Still, I suspected that was why he turned to others as we grew older.
          By that summer, Wally had the reputation of being wild, at least among the adults. Ours was a small town where neighbors knew everything there was to know about neighbors. The fact that I couldn’t go too far overboard without my folks learning about it made me feel safe, but it chafed Wally. The budding fighter pilot in him wanted to break the bonds of small-town boundaries and soar. So it goes without saying he was usually in trouble to some degree.
          Because of his venturesome nature, it was strange that my folks never tried to put the kibosh on our friendship. And his mom positively glowed whenever I came over. I didn’t get it then, but she probably figured my level-headedness to be a blessing. Funny how folks look at the same thing and see it differently. Wally considered it as timidity.
          As we approached that last school year before he’d go off to college, the age difference between us didn’t seem so big as it had awhile back. More often than not, Wally invited me to hang with him and his jock buddies, and I did. But it wasn’t a comfortable fit because I was the naysayer, the wet blanket, the raincloud hanging over the group whenever they wanted to drag race or take a plunge off the cliff on the south side of Webber’s Lake. Or worse yet, when they boozed before racing or jumping off the cliff.
          The Fourth of July of my sixteenth year is imprinted on my mind—on my psyche—as if applied by a red-hot branding iron. My aunt and uncle and their daughter from the next town over went with us to the lake for the holiday. Virtually the whole town was there, including the Hamners. We no sooner arrived than Wally stopped by to get me to go join his gang atop the bluff across the lake. But out of a sense of duty—probably misplaced—I stayed behind with my cousin Helen, a fifteen-year-old pain in the butt, as Wally hopped into his old ’49 Ford convertible and headed off for fun and games while I played nursemaid
          As we ate fried chicken and “fixin’s” and listened to Helen whine about this or that, my eyes continually strayed to where tiny figures cavorted atop the cliff. Occasionally, someone dove into the water, exciting “oohs” and “ahhs” from those of us who happened to see. There was talk of how dangerous that was and whether we should send a deputy sheriff—who was eating with his family a couple of tables away from us—to put a stop to it, but nothing came of such talk.
          I happened to be watching when someone fell from the cliff. It was different from the others. The figure wasn’t diving knife-like into the water, it was dropping sideways and would likely land in the shallows. My heart fell into my stomach as tiny stick figures collected at the top of the bluff, gesticulating and yelling, their voices echoing off the water and faintly tickling our ears like the irritating buzz of swarming mosquitoes or the sizzle of fat in a hot skillet. Three or four of the boys dived off the cliff
          Others on this side of the lake had seen the fall as well, and the deputy was finally dispatched to check out the situation. By now, most of the boys on the cliff-top had joined others in the water and clustered in a group at the bottom of the bluff.
          My heart fell into my stomach as a heavy sense of foreboding pressed on my heart and rendered me dizzy. My blood seemed to have pooled in my shoes, rendering me incapable of doing anything besides sag against the concrete picnic table and gasp for breath. My dad and Mr. Hamner raced for the shore and jumped in one of the boats taking off across the lake. As I tried to stand, Mrs. Hamner restrained me. The haunted look in her eyes sent chill bumps sweeping over me.
          “Stay here, Bobby,” she mumbled. “Stay with your mother and me.”
          “Was it him? It-it was Wally, wasn’t it?” I stuttered.
          “Hush up. We’ll know soon enough. God help us, we’ll know soon enough.”
  
*****

Well, was it Wally who fell? Or was it one of his friends, which might hopefully knock some sense in Wally’s head. Tune in next week and see.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Not the change in the Email address)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Sourwater Slough, a Guest Post


dontravis.com blog post #332

Courtesy of GoodFreePhotos

This week, fellow author Donald T. Morgan gives us the Prologue to his unpublished novel Sourwater Slough. Set in southeastern Oklahoma (my old stomping grounds), the book is a murder mystery. Let him know if sounds interesting to you.

*****

SOURWATER SLOUGH

By Donald T. Morgan

Sourwater Slough along the Little Fork River, south of Clovertown, Oklahoma

Sucking putrid swamp air into his lungs in desperate, spastic gasps, he stood over the inert body. The rage of a moment ago dissipated like a dandelion riding the wind. Hands dangling at his sides, fingertips twitching, he swayed as his hammering heart slowed abruptly. Reality returned in the faint drip of water somewhere nearby, in the smear of blood on the rough, curling bark of the tree, in the rank stench of the bog.
“Come on. Get up,” he said in a near whisper.
Aw, hell. She wasn’t gonna get up. Ever. Oh, man, what now? It was an accident. Her fault. Anybody could see that. Anybody but that fat Malcolm County Sheriff, Joe Lee Buchanan. That redneck wouldn’t buy it. Not for a minute.
He’d just wanted to get it on. That’s what they’d come down here for—or he had, anyway. Wasn’t like they hadn’t done it before. Why’d she have to go squirrelly just because he brought her to the slough? She was usually a good sport, up for doing crazy things. When she’d bailed out of the truck in a snit, he’d laughed at the awkward way she skied in the mud. He got out and grabbed at her. But when his hand hit her shoulder, she went down in the slick sludge, banging her head on the bole of a tree.
His shoulders rose and fell in a sigh. God, she looked funny lying there. Too bad, but she ought not have treated him like dirt.
“Serves you right.”
The words echoing hollowly across the surface of the slough made his skin go clammy. Didn’t sound like his voice. More like a stranger’s. Was somebody in his head talking for him?
A splash down the shoreline puckered his flesh. He peered through the late afternoon haze. Fishermen? Frog giggers? But nothing stirred in the oppressive heat. Not a leaf. Just swarms of gnats and flies. Sourwater lay silent and mysterious, looking more like a pool of dirty motor oil than water. A thick canopy of branches overhead almost obscured the low bank of clouds hiding the sun. The heavy atmosphere made it hard to breathe. The bog reeked of death and decay. What the hell was he gonna do now?
Ripples near a cypress knee poking out of stale water morphed into a snake. The ugly moccasin gave him an idea. Nobody knew he’d brought her out here. He’d just leave her for the swamp. His great-granddaddy used to talk about a big alligator down in the bottoms. That sucker would take her for sure. Clean up after him so nobody’d ever find her. That was the answer. The slough knew how to take care of its dead. He frowned. Was that why he chose this funky place? Some fort of premonition?
A clap of thunder overhead and an answering rumble off to the south freed him from inertia. He slogged through the mud to his pickup for something to weigh her down. Rope was no good—too distinctive. Lots of cases got solved with nothing more than a hair. Watching “CSI” on TV taught him that.
A spool of fishing line might work. Everybody in the county had a reel, and it wouldn’t take fingerprints. But to be safe, he’d get a pair of work gloves from the pickup to handle everything.
He stripped to keep sweat from ruining his clothes. Buck naked, he scrounged enough rocks to fill two burlap sacks he found along the shoreline. Panting from his efforts, he lashed the frail, dead form to the bags with yards of filament. Man, even her thick hair looked different now. Lost its luster.
As he struggled to lift the trussed-up package, he slipped and fell on his face. He fought his way to his feet as the first raindrops crashed through the overhanging branches. When he rolled her into the slough, she slid a couple of feet and stopped. He recoiled as her big eyes stared at him.
He swiped his running nose and steadied himself. The weighted sacks had turned her in the shallows. She wasn’t looking at him. She wasn’t looking at anything.
He overcame an aversion to the revolting stew of sediment and noxious ooze and waded into the water, struggling with the bundle while trying to ignore thick muck squishing between his toes and snatching at his ankles like spectral fingers. Oh, hell. Where was that water moccasin? He fought to keep from bolting back to the shore. Fat raindrops raised pimples on the dark water, making it come alive. Green at the edges, the lagoon turned black toward the middle. Poisons leached up out of the ground, probably eating away his flesh.
Grabbing the body before he freaked himself out, he heaved with all his strength. His feet shot out from under him. He went down hard in the slimy mud. The girl seemed to clutch his chest. With a mindless squeal, he shoved her away and scrambled to find purchase on something solid, but the slippery bottom betrayed him. He floundered helplessly as Sourwater sucked him into her depths. He fought his way to the surface, splashing like a five-year-old who couldn’t swim. Reason returned, but not before he took a mouthful of filthy water. Coughing and gagging, his insides burning, he clawed his way to shore and threw up on the muddy bank.
While he struggled with his heaving stomach, a bolt of lightning struck a dead tree across the lagoon. Ear-splitting thunder left his head spinning. He tasted ozone on his tongue. His hair stood on end. Nerve endings sang like they were plugged into a live socket. That had been close. He snatched a look at the water, half expecting her to rise from the depths and come for him. But she was gone. Sourwater had her..
He studied the smoldering, lightning-struck snag across the way before raising his chin to the heavens and laughing uncontrollably.
“Missed me! And if you can’t get me, nobody can.”

*****

Spooky place to take a girl for a romantic assignation… but like the mysterious “he,” said, she was usually up for anything. But apparently not Sourwater. But was his date’s death an accident or “accidently on purpose?” Interesting. Maybe Don (the other Don) will give us another look down the line.

By the way, several readers had comments on the podcast interview Traci HalesVass of Radio KSJE did on The Bisti Business. Apparently, my voice didn't sound as weird to others as it did to me. We're scheduling another interview for sometime this summer with Abaddon's Locusts as the subject. I'm including the link in case you haven't listened to the podcast as yet.

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-dxfzn-a9b9ad

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!

My personal links: (Not the change in the Email address)

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Zozobra Burning! (A repost)


dontravis.com blog post #331

Artist: Maria Fanning
DEAR READERS, Radio Station KSJE in Farmington, New Mexico did an interview with me about The Bisti Business. Click on the link provided below (or copy it) to listen to the interview. 

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-dxlzn-a9b9ad

I'd also like to thank Traci HalesVass, Professor Emerita of English and host of the program Writers on 4 Corners on KSJE 90.9 FM, who conducted the interview.

Now to current business:

Given that we’ve concentrated on my later BJ Vinson books, this week, I’d like to call attention to the first one. The Zozobra Incident, released in 2016 by DSP Publications, introduced Burleigh J. Vinson (known as BJ to everyone but two individuals in his world), the former marine, ex-APD detective turned confidential investigator. That’s also when he met his companion, Paul Barton.

In the following excerpt from Chapter 15, BJ attends the burning of Zozobra at the opening of the Santa Fe Fiesta. Let’s watch the sucker go up in flames:

*****
THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT

The crowd grew larger, noisier, and more restive as evening arrived. Booze was banned in the park, but flasks abounded, and they sure as hell didn’t contain sassafras tea. Another band had taken the stage—if anything it was more enthusiastic and louder than the first. Every thump of the bass reverberated inside my chest. It was just like being at an outdoor rock concert. Pretty soon, we’d have to give in to the press of people and stand up, but first, I shared my corned beef sandwich and some water with Darrel.
After that, we stood, and I tried to retrieve my blanket. There were too many people standing on it, so I abandoned it to its fate. Eventually, the decibel level grew to a pitch where conversation became impossible.
We stood and craned our necks to do some more people watching. Just as I figured my back was going to give out, a blare of trumpets heralded the approach of the traditional procession from St. Francis Cathedral. The Conquistador Band approached the base of Zozobra’s stage from a gate that spared them from having to squeeze through the mob. Immediately, the Star Spangled Banner blared through the speakers, and the crowd sang…no shouted along.
Then the tempo switched from triumphant to funereal. Black-robed and hooded Kiwanis members led the parade bearing the effigy of the Mother Mary in the persona of La Conquistadora. Gloomies, eight- and nine-year-old children who dance as ghosts around Zozobra, preceded the Fire Spirit Dancer, the Queen of Gloom, Gloom Princesses, handlers, dignitaries and a seemingly endless host of others.
As darkness fell, a synthesizer blared when white-sheeted Gloomies began cavorting before Zozobra. The Fire Spirit Dancer, clad in a flowing red costume, drove away the mischievous children in an acrobatic dance originally created by a New York ballet dancer especially for the burning. A drum crew added to the din of the frenetic synthesizer. A band added brass and reed as the dance reached its tempestuous climax. Then the master of ceremonies stepped forward and whipped the assembled crowd into a chant of “Burn him! Burn him!”
As the demand for his death grew, Zozobra flailed and roared in protest. I could almost believe he was some grotesque human personification facing a burning at the stake. It was eerie.
At last, Santa Fe’s black-suited mayor took the stage to solemnly pronounce the death sentence to the screaming crowd. Instantly, weird green lights lit the periphery of the doomed monster. As the official stepped away, the crowd broke into a chant again. Cries of anticipation reached a crescendo, grown men shouted, women screamed, and children yelled. And everyone pressed forward for a closer look. For a moment, I wondered if I’d be able to draw another breath. The panic passed, although the pressure continued to mount. The noise was indescribable.
Then the Torch Handler gave in to the demands of the frenzied crowd by touching a brand to the skirts of the giant. Old Man Gloom’s grunts and groans became squeals of agony. His arms flayed helplessly as a white-hot blaze raced up his loins. Thousands of throats let out a deafening roar when the first fusies, little containers of black powder concealed in the marionette, fired off. The band struck up the Mexican revolutionary tune, “La Cucaracha.”
The animated creature continued to flail as parts of him began to come apart. Gloom was now totally consumed by flames. His lower jaw fell away, blasted apart by fireworks concealed in his head. The roaring fire reached for the sky. It was a miracle half of Santa Fe wasn’t incinerated by now. Of course, Zozobra’s auto-da-fé came at the end of New Mexico’s monsoon season when the countryside was wetter than usual—at least in theory.
A deafening roar came from the crowd as the personification of Anxiety came apart. A flaming arm fell to the ground in a burst of sparks. The massive fire seemed to exert a magnetic force, drawing spectators at the rear to press even harder against those in front. The conflagration turned the chilly night warm as Old Sourpuss disintegrated before our eyes. I stole a glance at Darrel. His eyes were glued to the dying monster. He trembled from unconcealed excitement.
The raging inferno collapsed in upon itself and became a mere bonfire. Immediately, the most spectacular fireworks show I’d ever seen began. Rockets flared, shells burst. Vivid, vibrant colors filled the entire sky.

*****

I hope this sparked some interest in The Zozobra Incident for those of you who haven’t read the book.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading and keep on writing. You have something to say, so say it!



My personal links:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:



See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Another Look at The Voxlightner Scandal


dontravis.com blog post #330

Artist: Maria Fanning
I’m constantly getting surprised by the blog world. I’ve told you of 3,000+ page-view hits from Israel and 1,500 hits from Russia and 1000+ hits from Brazil. Last month, I got almost 4,000 hits from Hong Kong, and on the twenty-fifth of this month, 4,480 hits from Israel again. I’ve tried to analyze the key words from the posts that generated such interest and cannot find a pattern. Maybe someone can explain it to me.

In January of this year, I gave you a look at the opening of my sixth book in the BJ Vinson mystery series called THE VOXLIGHTNER SCANDAL. I now have a cover for the novel and should have a publication date soon. In order to show off the book cover, I am compelled to share more of the novel with you. The excerpt below opens Chapter 2. The characters “on stage” are BJ Vinson and Lt. Gene Enriquez of the Albuquerque Police Department.

*****
                                                  THEVOXLIGHTNER SCANDAL            

          I managed to pry Gene away from APD headquarters to have lunch the next day at the Courthouse Café. As usual he was rushed until I prevailed upon him to sit back and take a deep breath.
          “Okay. Now what?” he demanded.
          “Now eat a lunch without gulping it down and take time to smell the roses.”
          “Grease,” he grumped. “BJ, all I smell in here is grease.”
          I knew exactly what was riding his back. “They still pressing you to move up?”
          He nodded and snorted simultaneously. “Yeah. I’m not gonna accept it.”
          “Are you thinking of yourself, or are you thinking of Glenda and the kids?”
          He bristled. “I make a decent living. Take care of them okay.”
          “Face it, Gene, you’re already an administrator. When was the last time you went out and worked a case?”
          “That case we worked together last year. What did you call it?”
          “Abaddon’s Locusts.” I eyed my former APD partner. “You’re avoiding the issue. What are your options. You turn down a promotion, you slam a lid on your career. You’ve got in your twenty, so you can put in your papers. Or you can accept what they’re offering and continue to build on what you have.”
          He scratched his chin before dry washing his face. “What the hell would I do if I retired? Go crazy, that’s what I’d do. Six months tops.”
          “Charlie and I talked it over. You can join us. Vinson, Weeks and Enriquez. How does that sound?”
          “Not bad.”
          "It’s there if you want it, but personally, I think you’re too much of a cop to be happy outside the department.”
          “I hear you and Paul met with Roy Guerra on the Belhaven thing.”
          “Yep. Have you called it yet?”
          “Homicide. Autopsy showed he was hit in the head with a blunt object before he caught fire. No smoke in his lungs. He was dead before he lit up.”
          “Will you have any heartburn if Paul and I work with Guerra?”
          “Naw. He’s new to his shield and can use the help.”
          “Do I read anything into the fact he doesn’t have a partner?”
          “Roy’s a quart in a pint pot. He’s going to turn out to be a good detective. We’ll get him a seasoned partner as soon as I find a good match.”
          “He and Paul both believe Belhaven’s killing ties into his promise to reveal the killer in the Voxlightner debacle.”
          “What’s your take?” he asked.
          “Things point in that direction, but I try to keep an open mind. Refresh my memory. Wasn’t Everett Kent murdered while looking into the scandal because his law partner Zachary Greystone was involved in incorporating the venture?”
          “Not only did Greystone handle the paperwork incorporating the company, he was promoting it big time,” Gene said. “Had a hand in setting up the list of initial investors.”
          “How was Kent killed?” I asked.
          “Shot to death in his office on the fourth floor of the Central New Mexico Bank Building. Working late alone in the office.”
          “Must have been someone he trusted if he admitted his killer after hours. When was this?”
          Gene stretched to ease his back. “End of February or beginning of March 2004.”
          “Not long before Voxlightner and Stabler took a powder,” I noted.
          While munching on tacos, we reconstructed as much of the old scandal as we could recall. In the remembering it was dry, boring stuff, but when bits and pieces had screamed headlines in successive editions of the Albuquerque Journal like some Hollywood serial, the scandalous affair gripped all of New Mexico and half of Arizona in its thrall.
           The whole thing began when a Nevada mining engineer named Dr. Walther Stabler claimed copper tailings just across the Arizona border in the Morenci district contained gold. Marshal Voxlightner’s son Barron hauled a ton of dirt to the New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology for a series of fire assays. The tests consistently showed commercial amounts of gold and silver. Especially appealing was the fact the material did not have to be extracted from the ground because the ore was pre-mined copper tailings.
           The mine owners realized the dumps possibly contained commercially valuable trace minerals, but they also faced local pressure to get rid of some five million tons—and growing—of ugly piles of dirt. Therefore they were willing to sell the material for $1.00 a ton, the cost of removal and transportation to be borne by the purchaser.
          After a month of positive assays—some of which were performed on samples selected by prospective investors at random from the seemingly unending piles of dirt—Marshall Voxlightner, the retired oilman with a solid reputation—put in $250,000 seed money and agreed to lend his family name to the project. His son promptly incorporated the Voxlightner Precious Metals Recovery Corporation and put his team together. He and his group matched the old man’s $250,000, and the venture was off and running.
          “How far did they get with the actual project?” I asked.
          “After the initial offering sold out, they bought all five million tons of copper tailings,” Gene said. “At the same time a couple of guys—Greystone and Pillsner, if I remember right—were working on permits for the mill to be located down in the Socorro area.”
          “Pillsner? I forgot Wick was involved.” Hardwick Pillsner, a local businessman, made his living—and a pile of money—as a promoter. He’d facilitated the buying and selling of various local businesses. Putting together the Voxlightner operation would have been right up his alley. “Was he an officer?” I asked.
          “He’s the one who introduced Stabler to Voxlightner. Helped put it all together. But he wasn’t even a board member. He had a policy against taking a hand in operating anything he helped form. He just took a stock position for his efforts in this one, I understand,” Gene said.
          “So Wick lost potential, not money.”
          “He’d disagree. He considers time as money.”
          “Can’t argue with the logic,” I said. “My time is all I have to sell. How much was the initial offering?”
          As Gene looked at me through tired brown eyes, it occurred to me why we worked so well together. What he couldn’t remember, I could. And our memories stretched back a long way. “What happened to the tailings after the company folded?”
          He assumed a thoughtful look. “As I recall the Greystone firm attempted to get the company’s money back and were met with a suit to remove the dumps as agreed under the sales contract. Greystone eventually settled for getting back something like a quarter for every dollar.”
          “So the investors recovered a million and a quarter of their money. Funny. I don’t recall shareholders getting anything back.”
           “The recovery was used to pay off other obligations of the corporation under bankruptcy proceedings. Investors got nothing.” Gene glanced my way. “Did you lose a bundle?”
          “A bundle to me at the time. I was an APD cop, remember?”
          “With a few mil in the bank.”
          “I never touched any of the trust money. The VPMR investment just ruined me personally for a couple of years.”
          Over the dregs of our meal we continued to reconstruct the scandal… the crime, really. In early 2004 VPMR’s problems came to light when board members expressed concern over the rapid rate of heavy expenditures. Money was flowing like oil from one of Marshall Voxlightner’s gushers, and red flags began to wave. The trucking company moving ore from Arizona halted work because of nonpayment. The School of Mines lab wasn’t paid for the last batch of assays. Wick Pillsner complained of unpaid rent for the building he rented the corporation on East Lomas.
          Kent Everett dealt the nastiest blow when he filched some of the copper tailing material and took it to an independent lab for assay. Traces of gold and silver and even platinum showed up, but not in commercial quantities. He then filed suit in District court—as a stockholder—for a complete accounting by an independent arbitrator. Within a week, he was shot in the back of the head in his office.
          But the damage was done. An investigation was under way and couldn’t be stopped. Then Barron Voxlightner and Dr. Walther Stabler vanished without a trace. They were last seen huddling together over a conference table in corporate headquarters on a Monday night in March 2004. The next day the Journal’s headline screamed something over $40,000,000 of the company funds were missing. Some was traced to the payment of phony accounts, some to bank transfers overseas and a series of cash withdrawals. In retrospect suspicious activity reports should have been filed by the bank, but the principals backing the company were highly respected men with proven business acumen. No such reports were filed.
          The FBI moved quickly after the disappearances, arresting company COO John Hightower, and casting suspicion over the other officers and members of the company’s board of directors. Eventually Hightower was revealed as a dupe and never prosecuted. His responsibilities were for operations not finances. Doubtless he was lax in the performance of his duties but not criminally so. His reputation in shreds, he moved out of state, no doubt carefully watched by the feds wherever he went.
          After the disappearances, authorities concentrated on the search for Voxlightner and Stabler. The locals pursued the murderer of Everett Kent with just about as much success as with the rest of the mess. Despite a massive manhunt for the missing men, the investigation went nowhere. The courts took over the dissolution of the bankrupt corporation, and eventually things died out. To the best of our recollection the whole thing from start to finish lasted just over six months—from early September 2003 to mid-March 2004. Just like that, some $50,000,000 had been sucked out of the fragile economy of New Mexico.

*****
I know this was a little long, but I hope you stuck with me to this point. I also hope you found it interesting.

Abaddon’s Locusts, the fifth in the BJ Vinson mystery series, received several positive reviews. I hope you’ll consider buying a copy. If you do, please post a review of the book on Amazon. Each one helps… as do letters to the publisher.

My mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it.

My personal links:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Mountain, Part 3 of 3 Parts


dontravis.com blog post #329

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
As I said at the end of last week’s reading… what else is there for Hargis to learn about himself? Let’s answer that question.

*****
                                             THE MOUNTAIN                         

Saddened by this desertion, I resumed my journey, once again finding the going rough through the narrow rock confines connecting them.
Somehow, I was not surprised to see someone straddling the pathway in the middle of the next lea. This was a sturdy youth of my own age, and his stance held a measure of menace. I tightened my hold on my hickory staff as we met.
“You are Hargis of Rodenbury?”
“Aye! And who are you?”
“I am Ayeth of the Mountain.”
We examined one another in silence for a few moments. He was fully as broad as I and of a height. His jerkin was open, giving a glimpse of heavy muscles. Here was a formidable young man. And handsome, too, I noted with surprise. Such things were normally beyond my ken. He bore a resemblance to Donneth, yet without his soft ways.
“You met my sister, Gwyndolyn. What did you do to her?”
“Why, I did nothing, man! We swam together, and I departed.”
“But you slept with my sister, Gwinnyth.”
“We but shared blankets; her virginity is intact.”
“My brother, Donneth, what did you do to him?”
Abruptly, I closed my mouth, stymied for an answer. “Ask him,” I finally said. The words sounded weak.
“Nay, I ask you,” he said, bristling. His anger made him more comely. “Did you spill seed between you?”
I stood silent, unable to admit what had happened.
My silence was his answer. He grew impatient at my mute state. “Now, you will take my seed.”
I found my tongue quickly. “Nay, that’ll not happen, Ayeth. You’re not man enough to force that issue.”
He shrugged out of his jerkin, revealing a powerful torso. “Aye, I’m man enough for you, Hargis. And I’ll fight you to make my point.”
“And if you lose?”
“I will not lose. But if I do, you have safe passage. You’re a cobbler, are you not? If I do not beat you, I’ll give you leather enough to make you feel rich.”
He paused to allow me to shed my pack and my doublet. His eyes raked my chest and shoulders, measuring his opponent. Then he closed on me suddenly.
I met him confidently. The quarry is a hard way to earn a living, but it provides certain advantages. Daily, I had moved masses of rock for four long years. I was as hard as one of those stones and as strong as any man I’d ever known.
But somehow in these mountains, Ayeth had found his own source of strength. We grunted and groaned, swaying in the middle of the path, each seeking to throw the other. Finally, he managed to fling me against a tree. Instantly, he was upon me, but I moved aside and fastened myself to his back like a tick on a dog. We rolled on the ground until he dislodged me.
I do not know how long we battled, but it was long enough to weaken me. His attacks seemed less vigorous, but then so did mine. At length, we fell to the ground again with him atop me. I felt the strength go out of him. He lay inert, his long form flowing down the length of me. I stopped my own struggles; we lay face-to-face, sweating and panting. His brown eyes studied me for a moment before he lowered his lips to mine. Surprised, I permitted his intimacy.
“You want me, Hargis. Admit it,” he gasped.
“A-aye.”
“Then it will be on my terms.” He recovered faster than I.
“Aye. On your terms.” An eagerness seized me that left me weaker than my struggles.
He stood, swayed for a moment, and then steadied himself, legs apart, hands on his hips. I rose to my knees and reached for him. He stayed me with a hand on my head.
“Are you sure, Hargis?”
In answer, I pulled him closer. At length, he lay back and spoke. “Tarry awhile with me,” he said in a deep voice, a smile on his face. “We will clean ourselves and rest.”
Besotted, I nodded agreement. We ate of roasted pig in easy companionship, although we spoke little. As for me, my mind was taken with seeking answers to profound questions about my actions since entering this strange place. What had happened to me? Why had I acted as a man for one man and accepted another?
As evening arrived, it became clear that I would remain the night. We cleaned ourselves in silence before retiring. He seemed absolutely placid; however, I was skittish as a newborn colt. And in a sense, I had been reborn. When we finished, he turned to me.
“I will return shortly.” With those words, he was gone. I had begun to contemplate desertion before he reappeared out of the darkness lugging a bundle of hides.
“What is that?” I asked in relief.
“Leather for the cobbler. I did not beat you, Hargis. You fought me to a standstill, though you surrendered peacefully enough. Nonetheless, I did not beat you.”
There was leather to supply me for several lunations. I would not starve when I arrived at Dag Durgess.
As we spread our blankets side by side, a question rose to mind. “Will you be here when I rise on the morrow?”
“Nay. I’ll be gone.”
“Will I see you again if I return this way?”
He sighed. “You’ll not return. A man is given only one quest along this trail.”
“Quest!” I exclaimed. “I am on no quest. I go to seek friends on the far shore.”
He turned to me, his eyes glowing in the darkness. “Perhaps you were on one without the knowledge. It happens sometimes.” He interrupted my response with a hand on my chest. “I would have my way again. Are you willing?”
“Aye,” I answered slowly.
“Are you certain?” At my nod, came to me as no man had ever approached me before this time. His searching kiss addled my mind as he lowered me to the blanket. His hard, muscled body covered mine.
He smiled in the darkness, and his strange question anew, “You are sure. You are certain.”
“Aye! Beyond doubt!” I exulted. “Love me!”
That he did, driving me crazy with new feelings, new sensations, new desires. He exhausted me more thoroughly than had our struggle on the trail. And the force of our exertions left us exhausted and draped over one another. His heart thudded against mine as our breathing eased gradually.
“By the Gods,” I exclaimed. “What did you do to me, Ayeth?”
“Showed you how it could be, Hargis.”
“Never have I experienced such a thing,” I whispered against his ear. “Is it love?”
“Aye, a love of sorts. Not a love for me, but a love of discovery. This thing we have done is magical, is it not?”
“Aye. Sheer magic! Come with me on the morrow.”
“I cannot, Hargis. I must remain here in my home.”
“Surely what we have must be preserved. Come with me.”
“Would you stay with me?” he asked calmly.
“I-I want to. But…but there are those who await me.”
He kissed me gently. “As there are for me here. But the night is not yet passed. There’s loving to be done yet.”
He spoke the truth. Totally exhausted, I lay in his comforting arms through the depths of the night. In the quiet of the darkness, I thought back over my three days in this mountain.
“Where are we?” I asked suddenly. “What is this place?”
“I thought you knew,” he said. “This is the Mountain of Sure and Certain Knowledge.”
Magically, I slept. On the morrow, there was no sign of Ayeth’s existence. I would have doubted it myself, save for vivid mental images of our coupling.
The rest of the trail out of the mountains was as easy as had been the entry. I emerged onto the foothills and viewed a broad plain that led down to a blue sea.
I turned to look back at the mountain, once again made hazy by a thick mist. The trail was real; the mountain was a solid substance. Yet I doubted that many who took this way walked the same mountain I had crossed.
My true nature suddenly clear in my own mind for the first time in twenty summers, I gave silent thanks to four, fair supernatural beings as the worm of uncertainty departed my chest, leaving me free of disquiet for the first time in ages. Refreshed and filled with a new resolve, I and turned east with firm footsteps toward my goal. To Dag Durgess where Dirkston anticipated my arrival before the Festival of the Harvest Moon.


*****
And now Hargis knows his true nature. His life in Dag Durgess is apt to be quite different from the one he led in Rodenbury. But he should be far happier understanding himself and his desires. Good luck to him.

Abaddon’s Locusts, the fifth in the BJ Vinson mystery series, received several positive reviews. I hope you’ll consider buying a copy. If you do, please post a review of the book on Amazon. Each one helps… as do letters to the publisher.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it.

My personal links:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Don Travis: Don Travis: The Mountain, Part 1 of 3 Parts

Don Travis: Don Travis: The Mountain, Part 1 of 3 Parts: Don Travis: The Mountain, Part 1 of 3 Parts : dontravis.com blog post #327 Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons I’d like to try a short sto...

The Mountain, Part 2 of 3 Parts


dontravis.com blog post #328

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Ready for the second installment of this medieval story? First, let me point out something obvious to the historians among you. Given the setting and the time, it is doubtful that Hargis and his two friends could read or write. But allow me some poetic license, okay? You will recall from last week that our hero met and rebuffed a beautiful young woman on his travel over a mysterious mountain. 

Here we go, trekking with Hargis over this strange mountain trail again..

*****
                                                                THE MOUNTAIN                         

The pathway ahead became far more difficult. Rocks torn from the slope blocked the way at times. Late afternoon found me panting and sweating at the edge of another beautiful park and mentally kicking my bum for refusing to sample the beautiful girl on the back trail. Mindful of the refreshing bath earlier that day, I knelt at the side of that same mountain stream and washed away the day’s grime before partaking of the cool water. As I started to rise, I froze. Standing on the opposite shore where the stream was at its narrowest, was a slender youth.
I issued a challenge from sheer surprise. “Who is there?”
“A friend,” came a clear, light voice. My words had galvanized the figure to action. Gracefully, the stranger leapt the stream and strode to meet me. “My name is Gwinnyth,” said a gamin mouth set in a gamin’s face. It was another girl…or woman, if you prefer. Younger than the other but looking strangely the same except for being slimmer and wearing her dark hair cropped close to the head in a strangely pleasing manner.
Introducing myself as a traveler on the way to the far coast. Offering me sustenance, she walked up the stream in a strong, boyish gait to a fire merrily burning in a carefully constructed rock pit. A hare simmered in a spit over the flames.
As she carefully offered a meal of charred flesh on a broad green leaf, she set about questioning me. I responded good-naturedly.
“I am Hargis of Rodenbury, a cobbler on my way to the eastern shore to visit two boon companions from my past.”
“You go to seek your beloved?” she asked. Her small head sat dainty upon its slender neck.
“Nay,” I protested quickly and then paused at the thought. “Mayhap you have struck upon a truth. There is a fair lady awaiting on that shore.”
“One? You spoke of two?” she said, nibbling at a hare’s leg on her own leaf.
“The other is a youth. Nay, he’s a man by now. I keep remembering him as I saw him last these three summers past.”
She looked up with interest. “He is fair, as well?”
“When last I saw him, he was as beautiful as his sister.”
“Then likely still he is,” she said nonchalantly. Suddenly, she eyed me frankly. “You have traveled far. You will spend the night with me?”
There was no doubt of her meaning. Her dark eyes examined me from pate to boot with the same disconcerting frankness as had Gwyndolyn. Fresh from that sweet temptation, I reacted with excitement.
“And where do you bed down for the night?” I asked through a tight voice.
“Why here, of course,” she replied.
“Have you no home?”
She glanced at me with puzzlement. “The mountain is my home.”
“Have you never been off it?”
Again, she looked perplexed. “There is no other place, at least in this world,” the small mouth proclaimed firmly.
“Then from whence do I come?” I asked with a smile.
“The other world,” she responded promptly.
Delighted at the provinciality of this woman-child, I rose with a laugh and proceeded to wash myself at the stream. As she had no blankets of her own, I allowed her to snuggle against me as we settled by the campfire. She made no objection when I lay close behind her.
Strange that I should be so excited by this slight woman when I spurned the voluptuous Gwyndolyn. Nevertheless, I responded to her. I reached around and fastened upon a rounded breast with a rigid nipple. Aye, I’d take this one for all her boyish, coltish ways.
Suddenly, a loud noise at the edge of the glen drew me to my feet ready to meet any danger. A lilting laugh eased my concern.
“Tis only a stag drawn to the fire and bolting when he caught our scent,” she said. Thudding hooves in the far brush confirmed her opinion. “Come back to our bed,” the girl pled.
And I did, but my ardor was deflated, the desire gone. I turned my back to her, and resting my head on my arms, I wondered at the fragility of my need. My heart raced, but it was from the interruption, not the wanting.
Her words startled me. “Are you sure?” To my muttered affirmative, she added, “Are you certain?” I made no further reply but fell asleep.
When I woke the following morning, Gwinnyth was gone. It was as if she had never been there except for the ashes in the fire ring.
Easing my hunger from the dried stores in my bag, I washed up and was soon on my way through this strange place. Once again, strewn boulders blocked my way in the steep part of the trail, forcing me to do some climbing. At mid morn, I reached the crest and looked eagerly to the east. There was nothing to see except for the broad seaward slope of the mountain and a haze in the distance. It was as if what the pixie Gwinnyth had said was God’s Truth. This mountain was its own world.
Resolutely, I set upon my trek again, finding the going faster on the downhill trail. The sun had long passed overhead before I paused to take sustenance again in a broad highland meadow like others I had left behind. There was no rushing stream to my left, but doubtless there was one somewhere nearby.
As I munched on tasteless dried goods, the hair on the nape of my neck bristled. Carefully, I leaned casually against the bole of a tree. In the periphery of my vision I caught sight of the gamin. She had followed me.
“I see you,” I said gruffly.
“And I see you,” came the reply, surprising me by the timbre of the voice. It was lower, masculine.
The figure stepped forward, and I saw that it was not Gwinnyth, but it could have been from the closeness of the resemblance. The pixie face was slightly larger, and the chin was male, the upper lip showing a faint line of down. This was a boy.
Confused, I stammered. “H-have we not met before?”
“Nay, I’ve not set eyes upon you before, although I wish I had. You are long on the trail?” the adolescent voice asked.
“Some days,” I responded.
“Come with me, and I will show you a welcome surprise.”
“I’ve a way yet to go. I’d best—”
“Tis but a short distance. And you will be pleased.”
Intrigued, I followed the youth into the forest. My eyes fastened upon his lean figure, discerning muscles playing beneath his rude clothing. I was brought to think of Gwinnyth walking before me in her feminine, boyish gait. This youth walked in a manly way tainted by a girlish grace. Confounded by my interest, I was glad when he came to a halt and gestured.
“See! There it is!”
He pointed to a dark, green pool from which steam arose. It was one of those natural baths heated by the earth. A thing much coveted for reasons of health.
Confident that I was intrigued, the youth abruptly shed his clothing and stepped into the water. I could not help but notice his dark nipples, lean belly, and ample manhood. He grinned as he took note of my observance and then sat in the pool with a curiously feminine flourish.
Suddenly tired, I stripped naked and entered the pool, taking a seat facing him. His eyes had examined me closely throughout the entire process.
“You are a lot of man,” he said as we faced one another in the hot, soothing water. Having no reply to that, I asked his name. “I am Donneth,” he responded.
“Some time back on the trail, I met someone who favors you strongly,” I said.
“Ah, that must be Gwinnyth.”
Comprehension dawned. “She is your sister?”
“Aye. I have sisters. And a brother. And you are Hargis, are you not?”
“How did you know? Oh, I see. You have spoken to your sister.” I colored abruptly. Had she told of my lack of interest.
A hand on my thigh interrupted my thoughts. I flinched.
“Have I offended you?” the youth, who I now judged three or so years my junior, inquired. “I simply sought to offer… friendship.”
“Where I come from men do not touch men in such manner,” I said gruffly. Yet in truth, I was not offended.
“That world must be a horrible place,” he said simply and leaned forward to gaze into my eyes.
“That world is your world,” I snapped.
“Nay, not mine! This is my world. Where I can offer my friendship as I see fit.” The hand came to rest on my thigh again. I made no protest. To my surprise, I responded to the touch.
“Stand so I can see you. Please!” he purred.
Whether out of perversity or a need arising from casting aside two attractive women, I complied and stood with tendrils of hot water cascading off my body, my suddenly exposed parts cooling in the mountain air.
You are beautiful!” Donneth murmured. Still shocked by my reactions, I agreed to remain with him for the night.
I slept with Donneth beside the comfort of a fire, and before sleep came, he reached for me. Pausing only to ask, “Are you sure?”
“Aye,” I responded. And after he drew me to orgasm, I asked if he would accompany me on the morrow, but he could not comprehend departing this world of his. At my dawn awakening, he was gone. As with Gwinnyth, there was no sign he had ever been here.

*****
Wow! Hargis of Rodenbury is learning things about himself. A beautiful young woman throws herself at him, and he rejects her. A tomboy excites his interest, but he allows noises in the forest to cool his ardor. But he goes all the way with a young man. What else is there to learn? See Installment 3.

Abaddon’s Locusts, the fifth in the BJ Vinson mystery series, received several positive reviews. I hope you’ll consider buying a copy. If you do, please post a review of the book on Amazon. Each one helps… as do letters to the publisher.

Now my mantra: Keep on reading. Keep on writing. You have something to say… so say it.

My personal links:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/donald.travis.982
Twitter: @dontravis3

Buy links to Abaddon’s Locusts:


See you next week.

Don

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.


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