Jazz Penrod phoned early the next morning asking for a meet. When I picked him up on the sidewalk in front of his mom’s house, he was dressed in denim cut-offs so tight he’d had to split the seam up the outside of the thigh in order to sit down. A thin T-shirt with straps—what my mom had called an undershirt—exposed his broad, red-brown shoulders and sheathed his torso like original skin. He wore open sandals, more like shower clogs than shoes, without socks. He grinned and shoved a black-billed cap with a red Captain Morgan logo back on his head.
“Mr. Vinson,” he said.
I popped the lock, and he flowed into the passenger’s seat like liquid mercury. “Morning, Jazz. What can I do for you?”
“Maybe it’s what I can do for you,” he countered, and then laughed aloud at my quick frown. “No, not that. I picked up a rumor. Thought you’d want to know.”
“Fine. How about some breakfast?”
“Okay by me.”
After we gave our order to a waiter in a nearby café, Jazz threw a long arm over the back of the chair next to him. As a trained investigator, I believe I notice things others do not, but I would have erroneously described him as skinny. Not so. He was slender, yes, but buffed with defined muscles—corded muscles. That thin shirt stretching over his torso clearly outlined a six-pack.
“Okay, now tell me about that rumor.”
“My brother—you know, Henry Secatero—he called me last night. He was over at the Chapter House to meet this girl. I’d told him about those missing guys and one turning up dead, so when he heard there’d been outsiders on the rez where they didn’t have any business, he thought of Lando and Dana.”
“Did he get any details?”
“Well, there’s a car, somebody said. Supposed to have been parked out on the rim of Black Hole Canyon. Been there a few days.”
“Where is Black Hole Canyon?”
“Sort of a rugged area not too far off the highway. It’s not really a canyon, just a big-assed arroyo. But Henry said the car’s not in it, just pulled up under an overhang where it’s kinda out of sight.”
My coffee and French toast and Jazz’s bacon and eggs and hash browns with a side of ham arrived. He stopped talking and dug in, eating rapidly while I munched and mulled over what he had told me. I was tempted to dismiss the incident; there was nothing to directly tie this to Lando, but I was looking for a car, and Henry had found one. It was worth checking out.
Jazz put down his knife and fork after his last bite of ham and drained his glass of orange juice. “You wanna go take a look?”
“Jazz, you’re not out to put your mark on me, are you?” I felt like a fool; there were more attractive fish in the ocean than me, but every look, every gesture seemed to be bait—chum for the sharks.
“I wouldn’t mind,” he admitted, “but I heard you when you said you were taken. Look, I liked Dana and respected Lando. If I can help them out, I’d like to do it.”
“Fair enough. If you’re finished, let’s go.”
“Let’s rumble, but first I gotta go home and change. I’d burn up out there in the sun dressed like this.”
So there he is, Jasper (Jazz) Penrod, aggressively showing off his natural assets, flirting, yet quite practical when he’s about to go out into the brilliant high desert sun to make what will be a vital breakthrough on the case. Go, Jazz!
Next week: Yep, one day we’ll get to the Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness?
New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.