A BJ Vinson Mystery Novel
Chapter 1 (First Installment)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
The telephone jolted me out of my reverie. Hazel Harris, my secretary, aide, and surrogate mother, had left for the day, but the answering service could field the call. Ninety percent of my clients were attorneys, and there weren’t many of them working this time of day. But when the phone shrieked a second time, I glanced at the unfamiliar long-distance number on the Caller ID and caved in to curiosity.
“B. J. Vinson, Confidential Investigations.”
“B. J. Vinson. What can I do for you?”
“What’s this?” a gravely voice demanded. “Some rinky-dink outfit where the boss answers his own phone?”
Curiosity has its limits. Without another word, I dropped the receiver back into its cradle. It usually takes a while to recognize a problem client, but this obnoxious prick had done me a favor by convincing me of it within a couple of sentences.
I swiveled my chair around to return to what I had been doing, savoring the view from the north-facing window of my third-floor office in one of Albuquerque’s historic buildings at Fifth and Copper. I often undertook this ritual before heading home. It was my favorite vista at my favorite hour in my least favorite time of year—about three-quarters of the way into evening on a muggy summer’s day made uncomfortable by the lingering humidity of an earlier quick-moving thunderstorm. Fortunately a more hospitable autumn hovered just around the corner.
The phone intruded again. Determined to cut this guy off at the pass, I snatched up the receiver, but before I could say anything, a loud laugh threatened to burst my eardrum.
“Short fuse, huh? Okay, I can respect that. Look, I’m in Hawaii on business and lost track of the time difference. Sorry to call so late.”
The bastard was pretty good at defusing things.
“Let’s start over, shall we? I’m Anthony P. Alfano. I run Alfano Vineyards in Napa Valley. I’ve got a problem out there in New Mexico, and I think you’re the guy who can help me. I got your name off the Internet. I like your website. It’s a solid professional layout.”
He left me little recourse except to respond gracefully. “Thanks. I assume you checked me out with someone, too.” I exhaled and tried to ignore the feeling I was being manipulated by an expert. “Okay, what’s the problem?”
“My son. He’s missing. Probably nothing serious, but I need to locate him.”
Orlando Selvanus Alfano—was this family Italian, or what?—twenty-one, and a graduate student in history at UCLA, had left on July twenty-second for an extended vacation. He and his traveling companion, another student named Dana Norville, intended to explore the natural wonders of the great Southwest and sample the wares of local vineyards. Even though they were three days late returning home, the vacationers were still registered at the Albuquerque Sheraton on Menaul and Louisiana across the street from Coronado Mall. Repeated phone messages left at the hotel and on Orlando’s cell phone had gotten no response. The two were going to miss the first classes of the fall semester if they didn’t return immediately.
“I take it the other student—this Dana—is his girlfriend.”
Alfano’s pregnant pause and terse answer raised my antennae. “It’s Dana James Norville. One of those names that can go either way.”
So that’s the way it was. Alfano needed a gay PI to look for a gay son. “Does he? Go either way, I mean?”
His rage was palpable. “Only one way. The wrong way.”
“And your son?”
Instead of the expected explosion, Alfano sighed heavily. “You have to understand something. Orlando’s not queer. Hell, most of us jerked off with buddies when we were kids. We grew out of it, no harm done. Lando’s just a slow developer. He hasn’t come out of it yet, but he will.”
“How about Norville?”
“That bastard’s a dyed-in-the-wool pansy, and he’s contaminating my son.”
I bit my tongue at the sophomoric outburst. “For your information, Mr. Alfano, I’m pretty ‘dyed-in-the-wool’ myself. I think you need to call someone else.”
Next Week: Second Installment of Chapter 1
To read the Prologue of the novel, see the previous post.
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