When I started looking around for something in THE BISTI BUSINESS to talk about today, I came across the following scenes early in the book. BJ has been hired to locate the son of Napa Valley wine mogul and his traveling companion. Given that the two young men are gay and the father’s attitude is definitely homophobic, BJ wonders if the two haven’t disappeared on purpose. Nonetheless, he sets about doing what he’s been hired to do. In the following passage from the book, he contacts his old partner at the Albuquerque Police Department with the intent of picking his brains. I chose this because it gives you a flavor of downtown Albuquerque and some of the state’s other interesting points.
Gene Enriquez, my old partner at APD, had recently made Lieutenant, and he sometimes chaffed at the rein the promotion put on his field work. When I called, he indulged in some bellyaching about being swamped but agreed to meet for a cup of coffee at Eulalia’s in the La Posada on Second and Copper, a short walk for each of us.
The central core of my building opened onto an atrium soaring through all five levels. As the elevator doors parted on the ground floor, my eyes automatically swept the waxed tiles. A year ago, a man had died on those hard clay squares when he went over the railing after attacking me on the landing outside of my office on the third floor. Sometimes I still saw smears of blood on the floor, but it was an illusion. The blue-black terracotta was scrubbed spotless and polished to a high shine.
I exited the building and headed east on Copper, pausing to say hello to the “Sidewalk Society,” nine life-sized bronzes by the Santa Fe based sculptor, Glenna Goodacre, that were grouped on the corner sidewalk outside the Hyatt Regency. After greeting the cast figures almost daily for the past few years, I had reached a few conclusions about them. The young woman with a briefcase was said to be an up-and-coming CEO, but I’m convinced she was a 1950s lawyer. The construction worker and his foreman, who sported a battered, old-style broad-brimmed hat, represented the thirties or forties. It had taken me some time to tumble to the fact the statues reflected different time periods in Albuquerque’s more recent history.
Gene yelled for me to wait for him as he strode briskly across Civic Plaza. “You always talk to statues?” He was a little breathless after running to beat the light change at the intersection. A stocky Hispanic with regular, pleasant features that seem vaguely Polynesian, Gene always appeared slightly frazzled; a consequence of dealing with the Albuquerque Police Department, a wife, and five kids on a daily basis.
I accepted both his hand and his ribbing. “Every time. Get some of my best answers from them.”
“I keep expecting one of the rookies to arrest the kid.” He motioned to the bronze of a teenager with a skateboard.
We entered the La Posada by the north entrance and stepped into another world. The interior was done in Spanish Territorial with aged wood copings, corbels highlighted in scarlet and turquoise, and heavily carved lintels. Nichos, small shelves in the white plastered walls, held carved wooden Santos and ornate Mexican tinwork. This hotel had once been part of the Hilton chain—Conrad’s first in New Mexico, as a matter of fact—but had been recently sold, yet again, and was scheduled for a makeover in the near future.
Gene and I selected a heavy oak table stained ebony by the passage of time, and claimed a pair of sturdy straight-backed chairs padded in green and gold. We spent a few minutes bringing one another up to date on our lives.
After making a brunch of the restaurant’s éclairs and a wedge of superb lemon meringue pie dribbled with chocolate, Gene was through chitchatting. “Okay, so what do you want?”
“What makes you think I want something? Can’t I call a pal without having an ulterior motive?”
I pretended to think for a moment. “Okay then, I’ve got a client looking for his missing son and the kid’s traveling companion.” In less than two minutes, I’d briefed him on the situation.
“So they’re like that, huh?” He wiggled his hand back and forth, a gesture that was supposed to convey something. Gene knew me too well to be sensitive about my sexual orientation.
“You mean are they gay? Yeah, I’d say so.”
“And you want to get in their hotel room.”
“Seems a logical place to start since one of their fathers hired me to represent the family.”
“These two, they’re emancipated, right? Adults.”
“Both are twenty-one, according to Alfano.”
“Hmm. Alfano gonna file a missing person’s report?”
“He will if you think it’ll help.”
“Naw. We’ve got enough to do without looking for a couple of kids who’ve run off to play hanky-panky. But if they strayed across the border into Arizona, they might be cooling their heels in some county sheriff’s jail as we speak. They take that shit seriously over there.”
“Possible, but not likely. They could be in real trouble, Gene. Alfano keeps a tight rein on his boy, and the fact he’s looking for him is troubling.”
“Maybe the colt got out of the family pasture and is feeling his oats. But okay, have the old man file a report, and I’ll see if I can get us inside the hotel room. Unofficially.”
I picked up the tab to see what kind of damage Gene had done to my pocketbook. Anthony P. Alfano’s pocketbook, actually.
Gene caught me peeking at the check. “Come on, you can afford it.”
“Maybe so, but it’s not my expense; it’s my client’s, and I don’t know how picky he is.”
Gene Enriquez is a good detective and a smooth-talker, at least smooth enough to get us access to the room occupied by—or held in the names of—Orlando Alfano and Dana Norville. There was little to see. The pair had taken their traveling bags with them, leaving behind nothing personal except for two bundles of clothing destined for the laundry, the only sign they intended to return. One set of duds was expensive Abercrombie and Fitch, the other bundle was GAP. It wasn’t hard to figure which clothes belonged to what dude.
The breast pocket of one shirt held a carefully folded Chamber of Commerce brochure extolling the virtues of El Moro’s Inscription Rock and the Ice Caves near Grants. A rumpled pair of trousers—the expensive ones—gave up a not-so-neatly folded tourist road map of the state.
The bell captain remembered the two men asking his advice about the Enchanted Circle in the Taos area. They had specifically asked about white water rafting along the Taos Box.
The clerk in the gift shop remembered the pair because, she blushingly admitted, they were both so handsome. Shortly after checking in, they had picked up several pamphlets from her, expressing interest in the Turquoise Trail, a sixty-two mile National Scenic Byway up Route 14 to Santa Fe studded with quaint, historic villages. Orlando and Dana had been especially curious about Valles Caldera, the seventeen-mile wide crater of an extinct volcano south of Los Alamos, the Atomic City. Unfortunately, they also asked about Lincoln County and Carlsbad Caverns to the south and east, as well as Mesa Verde and the Bisti Badlands in the northwest corner of the state.
How’s that for a swift glimpse of our little piece of paradise. Thanks for reading. Please let me hear from you.
Next week: We’re back to “who knows” again.
New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.