Time to return to one of the BJ Vinson novels, The Bisti Business, for this week’s post. Our PI is on the hunt for two young men from California who disappeared during a summer trip to New Mexico. His investigation takes him to the Four Corner’s area where he enlists a couple of locals to help in the search. In Chapter 26 of the novel (Page 213) he sees the opportunity to marshal a much larger force when he encounters a group of military veterans while searching homeless camps for one of the missing students. We pick up the story just after he braces the obvious leader of the group and tries to turn suspicion and hostility into a positive force. He’s just offered the men $500 if they locate his missing “nephew.”
“Nephews oughta be worth more’n five hundred. ‘Sides, I ain’t so sure he’s your nephew.”
“Think what you want, but five hundred’s what I’m offering. We have a deal?”
“We got one when I get my twenty.”
After handing the man his money, I gave his two pals ten each. Then I faced the big fellow in the duster and held out my palm.
“I want to shake on it.”
He hesitated a moment, and then engulfed my hand in a big, rough fist. “Name’s Gunner.”
“Good to meet you, Gunner. You picked up that tag in the military, didn’t you?”
He nodded. “Yes sir, the Corps. Copter gunships mostly.”
“Should have recognized it. That was my service, too.”
“Officer material,” he said flatly.
“I had my silver bar.”
Gunner straightened his spine and came to attention. “We’ll find this fella for you, Lieutenant.”
“When you do, protect him, okay? Somebody else may be after him.”
I considered the question for a moment and then answered honestly. A man’s entitled to know what he’s getting into. “The FBI and the County Sheriff are looking for him.”
“Them’s the two guys that was here a few days back. They didn’t learn nothing.”
“And there’s somebody else, too. Don’t know exactly who, but I’m not sure he wants my man in good health.”
So help me, Gunner saluted. I returned it automatically. It was exactly the right thing to do. Semper Fi.
I left the area and set about finding the “loony-toons” camp along the Animas River Gunner had told me about. It was after midnight by this time, so most of the camp inhabitants were already wrapped in blankets, newspapers, cardboard, or whatever else they could find to conserve body heat against the brisk night air. Some of them didn’t stir when I flashed a light in their direction; too drunk or stoned to react. The remainder cursed or fled into the brush. I made a complete round of the small camp without coming up with Lando or anyone who remotely resembled him. Discouraged, I returned to the motel.
I felt good about having Jazz and Henry on the lookout for Lando, and now the rather rowdy-looking homeless vets were also on the prowl for him—more of the local assets. If they happened to find him, I just hoped they wouldn’t rough him up too much. Maybe I should have made more of a point of that.
Thanks for reading. Be happy to hear from you.
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