THE BISTI BUSINESS by Don Travis
A BJ Vinson Mystery Novel
Chapter 1 (Third Installment)
I returned to the visual meditation of the landscape outside my window. As nature’s glow dimmed, man-made lights came alive: amber lampposts, white fluorescents, flamboyant neons, yellow vehicle headlights reflecting off wet pavement, and far in the distance a tiny spot moving slowly across the sky—one of the aerial trams hauling patrons up Sandia Peak’s rugged western escarpment to the restaurant atop the mountain.
By leaning forward, I caught the faint, rosy underbelly of a western cloudbank, the lingering legacy of a dead sunset. Was that what had drawn Orando and Dana to the Land of Enchantment? Spectacular scenery and surreal sunsets? Or was it our rich heritage of Indian and Hispanic art? The two were history majors, and Albuquerque had a long history. It was approaching its 300th birthday, while Santa Fe and many of the nearby Indian Pueblos had longer lifelines.
Beyond my line of sight, the city’s original settlement lay to the west where one- and two-storied adobe shops—some ancient and some merely pretending to be—hearken back to their Spanish colonial roots. Now known as Old Town, it was founded in 1706 by Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdez as the Villa del Alburquerque—some say Ranchos del Albuquerque. In either case, the Spanish colonial outpost was named in honor of New Spain’s Viceroy in Mexico City. The second “R” of the Duke’s name disappeared in 1880 with the coming of the railroad to New Town, located two miles east of Hispanic Old Town, a signal the Anglos had successfully wrested the heart—if not the soul—of the community from its founders.
It seemed as though a similar battle was being waged between Dana Norville and Anthony Alfano for the heart and soul of Orlando. Papa Alfano had given me cell phone and pager numbers for his son. He kept his pup on a short leash—or tried to. Not only that, but the old man had checked Norville out at the first signs of a budding friendship between the two. I’d bet Alfano was accustomed to throwing his weight around, railroading or buying whomever he wanted, including his son. My instinctive dislike of the homophobic bully made me wonder how far he would go to “turn his son around.” Maybe Orlando went on the run to get out from under the thumb of his tyrannical patriarch.
Spinning back to the desk, I went on the hunt for information over the Internet. According to Dun and Bradstreet, the Alfano Vineyards’ net worth was somewhere around $100,000,000. Although California is notoriously anal retentive about releasing it’s criminal records, the Superior Court websites I searched revealed nothing on Alfano, but that only meant he wasn’t a known murderer, rapist, or kidnapper. He would have bought his way out of anything less than that. Orlando, on the other hand, had a sheet in Los Angeles. From the limited information available, it looked to be nothing more than a couple of disturbing the peace charges. Norville’s record was about the same, leading me to believe they had been activists in their early university days. Maybe they met while agitating for some cause or the other. Gay rights? Voting rights?
There was no answer at their room in the uptown Sheraton. Well, no surprise there. The call to the kid’s cell phone went to a message center. I left a callback on the pager without much hope. Things are never that easy.
I had finished dictating instructions for the Alfano contract and was reaching to snap off my old-fashioned, green-shaded banker’s lamp when the telephone rang again. Maybe I’d caught a break. I hadn’t, but the sound of Paul Barton’s baritone sent my energy level soaring.
“You still at work?” he asked.
“Just finishing up. How about meeting somewhere for a late dinner.”
A deep chuckle. “Meet me at 5228 Post Oak Drive NW.”
“Yep. And I have a surprise for you.”
“Let me guess—green chili stew and warm, buttered tortillas. Uh…what’s for dessert?”
“I’ll leave that to your imagination.” He hung up in the middle of a wicked laugh.
This is the end of Chapter 1. For the Prologue and previous installments of Chapter 1, please see the prior three posts.
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