Establishing new relationships—especially ones that have the potential to become significant—can be difficult under the best of circumstances. When the one who tugs at your heartstrings might possibly be mixed up in a blackmail scheme you’re struggling to unravel, the task becomes infinitely more difficult. That is the position BJ Vinson, the confidential investigator in THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT, finds himself at the beginning of Chapter 11.
BJ has spent a celibate year recovering from both the gunshot wound which forced his retirement from the Albuquerque Police Department and a wrenching breakup with his life partner. When he meets Paul Barton, his interest is stirred again. He is falling for the handsome young man fast when APD Det. Eugene Enriquez, points out Paul closely resembles Emilio Prada, the chief suspect. BJ struggles with his personal desires versus his professionalism. As you can see from the following excerpt of the book, professionalism seems to be winning.
Early the next morning, I polished off the bagel, cream cheese, and lox Paul had prepared and watched him push his plate back from the edge of the table. He glanced up and smiled when he caught my eye.
“I’ve been wondering how you dealt with being gay in the Marine Corps? That’s supposed to be the ultimate man machine.”
I laughed. “It’s like anything else. It’s got a little bit of everything in it. But to answer your question, mostly I did without. There was one guy, another lieutenant, who helped me come to grips with a few things.”
Fifteen minutes later, I realized Paul had been conducting an interview. He got me started talking about what interested him, and prompted me with a “who, what, when, and why” whenever I flagged. That was the first time I realized a journalist did much the same thing I do every day of the week. And Paul was very good at it.
After he left, I dawdled at the dinette with a second cup of coffee while my restless mind seesawed between Paul’s departure and Del’s stubborn problem. Worse, I couldn’t avoid thinking about the possible connection between them. There are times my brain seems hard-wired toward the suspicious. The connections my devious head made were both inevitable and odious but they wouldn’t go away.
James Addleston, Steve Sturgis, Paul Barton, Emilio Prada, and Del Dahlman. One way or the other, they all tied together as the two lawyers battled it out over a coveted partnership position potentially worth millions. Of course, it could all be happenstance, but one thing preyed on my mind more than anything else. This new scholarship of Paul’s to one of the most prestigious journalism schools in the country came in the last semester of his undergraduate career. Was Sturgis the Medill alumnus sponsoring Paul at Northwestern? The professor was a client of Emilio’s. Did Paul and Emilio know one another? It was possible, of course. Both of them frequented the C&W Palace on East Central, and two such extremely attractive guys might well have gotten together, especially with a mutual friend to introduce them—someone like Sturgis, for instance.
I set my cup down so hard the coffee dregs sloshed onto the table. Ignoring the mess, I mentally recoiled from my thought processes. Paul fit the description of the man who rented the post office boxes as readily as Emilio.
With dragging footsteps, I went to my bedroom and took a snapshot of Paul from a frame on my nightstand, glancing at it fondly. It was one of several I had taken last week. Dressed in black jeans and a red form-fitting pullover shirt, he stood in front of the fireplace in the den with a broad smile on his face. His black hair was slightly long and unruly, like a kid’s. I reluctantly slipped the photo into my pocket along with the one of Emilio and Estelle.
Life is tough sometimes. Thanks for reading. Please let me hear from you.
Next week: Maybe a little more from THE BISTI BUSINESS.New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.