Thursday, August 27, 2015



At any rate, lets go for a short-short this week. Give me some feedback on the following.

How many times have we longed to recapture our carefree childhood? That time of light-hearted companionship and endless play. But was that really the way of things?
On sober reflection, I recall days of restless seas and stormy clouds. Years fraught with serious concerns. Would it rain-out next weekend’s family picnic? Could I elude Worrell Wight this morning and make it to third grade class without having my lunch money hijacked? Was Justin Hix serious about beating me up after school? What was his beef, anyway? He hadn’t liked my looks, if I recalled correctly. Was I in trouble because I forgot to do my homework? Of course, I was.
Once started down this line of thinking, a whole host of cares came flooding back. What would Mom say over the rip in my new pants? And would Dad haul out the switch because I didn’t clean the garage like he told me? Why couldn’t I catch a high fly or hit a slowball on the softball field? Would I ever grow enough for the football team? Would I survive if I accepted the dare to jump off the high platform at the swimming pool? Would the day ever end, the weekend arrive? When would this interminable school term be over? How many weeks, months, years before I graduated high school? College?
But I didn’t really know what trouble was until I was fourteen and Jemimah Wheatley shucked her embryonic cocoon and emerged as a raven-haired, buttery-skinned lass with budding breasts and swaying hips and slender ankles. Most guys fixated on the soft mounds of her bosom, but those ankles and the smooth calves above them were what got me.
Miracle of miracles! She returned my interest and favored me over all the other slobbering, pawing guys when I dubbed her Jemma once I learned Jemimah made her feel like a bottle of pancake syrup.
So we became an item. A wonderfully attractive couple at dances and the malt shop and simply walking down the hallway at school – at least her half of the pair was. But that brought worries of its own. Jerry was trying to horn in, take her away. She flirted with Charles but claimed that was just to make him blush. I enjoyed our relationship – especially the stolen kisses at night – but I always had to be on guard, protect our association. I turned into Justin Hix, ready to fight at the slightest hint of intrusion. And I prevailed. We went together all through eighth grade. That summer was marvelous even though I had a job at the corner grocer’s and fretted over what she was doing while I was working.
The relationship was still intact at the beginning of the next school year. Intact but different. I knew what her demands would be before she voiced them, and they often were not my preferences. Besides, during the summer, Beth Winstead had turned into a really beautiful girl with curly blonde hair that caught the sun and reflected it back into my eyes.
All in all, I think I preferred the grown-up trials and tribulations I face today. At least I knew who I was now and didn’t chase after the first “this,” the next “that,” and the following “other” whenever they deigned to come along.
Well, except maybe on the stock market. She was such an exacting mistress I had long ago started calling her Jemma.

Life isn’t always the way we want to remember it, is it? I have a friend who studies the brain, and she says it’s our System 1 (unconscious) arranging memories the way we want them to be. At any rate, a serious look at your idyllic past may reveal it wasn’t that great, after all.

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New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


I think it’s time for a short – but not too short – story. We’ve had enough of the BJ Vinson books for a while. Let me know what you think of the following tale.

Meeting Valdy, my future wife, during intermission at the Metropolitan Opera was a fantastic, unexplainable, gold-plated stroke of luck. Actually, I had been wandering the fringes of the crowd keeping an eye on a handsome young stud who caught my attention. I was at a loss to adequately explain why I was occasionally attracted to some hunk – inevitably an overt heterosexual. I merely speculated but never acted on such impulses. As I stood pondering my confusion in the foyer of the Metropolitan between acts of Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman, a stunning vision in a simple, elegant gown of dazzling white Egyptian linen floated up and handed me a drink.
“You look like a bourbon man. I’m Valdessa Bannerman. Valdy for short.”
“Love it!” I lied. A single malt Scotch was my drink. “Joseph Hunter.”
To make a long story short, five months later, Valdy and I were married in the Fort Dix base chapel where I had traded my banker’s three-piece suit for captain’s bars when called to temporary duty. A dreamy second lieutenant was my best man.
Valdy fit seamlessly into my life when we came home to Albuquerque a deliriously happy golden couple. Me … tall, blond, and slender with manly lumps. And Valdy? Lord the curves she packed into that svelte form! Her eyes were a pale blue that darkened when she was excited. Mine were as green as the patina of a weathered cathedral dome.
I took immense pride in the adoration Valdy inspired among my social set, yet was feral enough to recognize danger when it surfaced. And Rick Ailman was dangerous. That said, the good-looking, personable builder of luxury homes was also of interest to me as a banker. Five minutes after they were introduced at the Mayor’s Charity Ball, he had Valdy on the dance floor turning heads. Thereafter, it seemed that everywhere we went, Ailman showed up solo to sweep Valdy into his hard-muscled arms on some dance floor or the other. I held a tight rein on my temper, but did a lot less kibitzing and a lot more dancing with my wife at public functions.
“I do believe you’re jealous,” Valdy cooed once, a soft smile stretching those luscious lips.
I think I colored a bit. “Nonsense!”
Despite my denials, as I lay panting and exhausted later, I realized the truth of it. At the very moment of climax, I held an unwelcome image in my mind of a naked, dark-haired Adonis getting it on with my wife … Rick Fucking Ailman!
Vice Presidents are trumped by Executive Vice Presidents, and that’s who assigned me the Ailman account. Under such conditions, social encounters are impossible to avoid even though I put things off as long as possible. Eventually, Rick took the initiative and not only invited me to a working lunch but also a round of golf afterwards. Albuquerque’s persistent spring winds had abandoned us until next year, the true heat of the season had not yet arrived, and the blue sky was blotted with towering, snowy thunderheads far to the west, a perfect day for golf at a mile above sea level.
As we waited for the green ahead of us to clear, Rick parked the cart we shared in the shade of a cottonwood and stretched one foot out on the grass. I dug dirt from my cleats with a tee.
“Glad to see you’re relaxing a little,” he said out of the blue.
I looked at him with my mouth gaping. “I thought I was a laid-back sort of guy.”
“You are. Except around me. Your defenses always go up when I’m around.”
Since there was no denying it, I might as well get it out in the open. “Gotta admit that’s true. You set off my alarm bells.”
I shrugged and equivocated. “I don’t know. It’s just a personal reaction, I guess.”
I endured the study of his sable-fringed brown eyes for a long moment before he gave a low chuckle. “It’s your wife, isn’t it? You come on like gangbusters when I dance with her.”
“Look, drop it. I’m capable of separating my personal and professional lives.”
His silence lasted thirty seconds; his gaze made me uncomfortable. “You don’t get it, do you?” He snorted. “Talk about babes in wonderland. It’s not your wife I’m interested in. It’s you.”
I don’t know why I laughed aloud, probably because I didn’t believe him. After a moment, he joined in. Then some invisible power flipped a cosmic switch, and we sobered.
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Dead serious. Look, I like women. Hell, I love women, but occasionally I swing from the other branch of the tree.”
“Not with me, you won’t!” I blurted.
“Joseph, modesty aside, I’m something of a cocksman, but occasionally I’ll spot a certain guy and my interest kicks in. Right now, you’re that guy.”
“Get over it.”
 “Come on, are you telling me you’ve never made it with another guy?”
“That’s none of your business, Ailman, but I’ll answer you anyway. No, I haven’t. I’m happily married and in love with my wife.”
“What’s that got to do with it? I’m not suggesting we fall in love. But I want you, and just thought you ought to know.” He eased the cart down the fairway as the last putter strolled off the green, “If you’re going to tense up around me, then do it for the right reason.”
Rick had been two holes down on our side bet, but after that bombshell, I literally felt his eyes on my butt whenever I addressed the ball. I never slice but did an excellent imitation on four of the last six holes. After we settled up on eighteen, I grabbed a quick beer in the clubhouse -- it would have been unseemly to refuse -- but begged off the customary gin rummy game in the card room and raced home, awash in a sea of confusion. The guy who’d been courting my wife on dance floors all over Albuquerque had confessed I was the real object of his intentions. Okay, I could sort of understood that.
The confusion? I liked the idea.

Life isn’t always simple, is it? A guy thinks he’s got everything figured out and put in its proper slot. This his own inner nature rears its head and screws everything up. And you never know what the fellow next to you is thinking or planning.

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New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


For the past couple of weeks, we’ve taken a look at THE BISTI BUSINESS and THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT. Since those posts elicited some comments, we’ll go with another scene from BISTI today. The teenage, gay kid who’s been giving our hero some assistance sleuthing around Farmington, has led BJ to Black Hole Canyon on the Navajo Rez in pursuit of a car. As we saw in an earlier post, they locate the car, and  our PI’s nose tells him there is a body in the trunk. He notifies the authorities, and then they wait.

The following scene takes place at the end of Chapter 18 after the trunk has been opened and body inside, identified. BJ is talking to Jazz Penrod, the youth who’s been so helpful.
Gaines passed two Navajo cops walking up out of the canyon as he headed back down to the crime scene. Jazz moseyed over to the two policemen to exchange a few words before they got into the cruiser and pulled away.
“They don’t know anything,” Jazz said as he rejoined me. “They kinda get their noses out of joint when the FBI treats them like intruders. They say Gaines isn’t as bad as some of the agents, but they still feel froze out. But they did say the guy in the trunk had been shot.”
The EMTs beat the OMI to the site by about thirty seconds—which must have set some sort of time record. Hard on their heels, a wrecker arrived from Farmington. Another half-hour passed before they winched the Ford back up onto the rim of the canyon. Jazz and I watched as the medics lifted the body out of the trunk, laid it on a gurney, and began taking more pictures. We were a little distance removed, but I clearly heard the doctor give a preliminary opinion, which confirmed what the Navajo cops had told Jazz. The victim had been shot in the head, probably by a handgun.
Eventually, Gaines beckoned us over and lifted a wallet in his gloved hand. “Looks like you were right, Vinson. The California driver’s and PI licenses says it’s Santillanes. You’ll come in and give a statement, right? Both of you.”
I agreed and headed for my rental car before he decided to take us in for questioning that very minute. Jazz was quiet most of the way back to town, but at length, he spoke.
“Heavy, huh? I never saw a rotten dead guy before. I mean, I been to funerals, but those guys sure didn’t look like that dude.”
“No, but it didn’t bother Santillanes any more than it bothered those corpses being cleaned up for the mourners.”
“Man, you sure have weird thoughts.”
I laughed. “You’re not the first one to tell me that. Thanks for your tip, Jazz. If you hadn’t called me, the body might not have been discovered for weeks.”
“Yeah, sure. What’re you gonna do now?”
“Keep looking for Lando.”
“How come you don’t think he’s the killer? You don’t think gay guys can be killers?”
“Sure they can, but everything I’ve learned about Orlando Alfano says he’s not a murderer.”
“And you’re not ever wrong?”
“You got me there. I’m wrong a lot.”
Life is hell when you suspect everyone in the case may be the bad guy or in league with the bad guy. Hope you enjoyed the short snippet of the book.

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New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Last week, we met Sam Dunkard, a crusty old soul from THE BISTI BUSINESS. This week we get a glimpse of genteel, blue-haired Gertrude Wardlow from THE ZOZOBRA INCIDENT. She’s BJ’s nosy neighbor from across the street who continually surprises him with her pluck. We don’t actually meet the elderly widow in the scene, but the action gives you a sense of her.

By the time scene at the end of Chapter 22 takes place, BJ Vinson is getting closer to identifying whoever is behind the blackmail attempt against his client, and death threats have been made.

Stowing my vehicle in the garage seemed prudent under the circumstances. I locked the Impala and closed the double doors, making certain they were secure. All right—so it was like wearing a belt and suspenders, but sometimes that’s not only appropriate but also judicious.
A cautious stroll around the place to scope out the backyard for skulkers and the shrubbery for miscreants revealed nothing amiss except a couple of bald spots in the greenery. Some of the lawn sprinklers needed adjusting. Was the same thing happening to the grass around front? I latched the gate firmly behind me before making my way down the driveway to check on the grass. The rose bushes running along the edge of the house needed pruning. And weeding. There was always something.
I smiled as the curtain at the picture window across the street twitched. Resisting the urge to wave to my inquisitive neighbor, I mounted the steps to my front porch where I paused. The hair on the back of my neck rose at the sound of an approaching motor.
I whirled as a motorcycle roared to a stop in the middle of the street. The driver and the man in the saddle behind him both raised their arms. I dropped to the floor and rolled toward the porch’s solid stone balustrade. The roar of a heavy-gauge handgun all but drowned out the dull purr of the more deadly automatic weapon. Bullets smacked into the stone at my head. Chips from the wooden railing along the top rained down on me.
In the sudden silence that followed the gunfire, I heard excited chatter. The gunmen should have roared away, but they hesitated. My mouth went dry. The old wound in my leg throbbed. They were coming to finish the job. I fumbled the small semi-automatic from my jacket pocket. It was no match for the gunmen’s firepower, but it might be enough to keep them from coming any closer. Just as I bounced up from behind the banister, a thin, quivering voice demanding to know what was going on sent me into shock. Gertrude Wardlow, bless her meddlesome old soul, had the same effect on the gunmen.
The world seemed to freeze. Two hoods in black leather with opaque helmets masking their features paused in the act of reloading. The man on the back carried what looked to be an Uzi. The driver had just popped a fresh cylinder in a big-assed revolver. Beyond them, and in my direct line of fire, stood my white-haired neighbor. So much for trying to draw blood from the bad guys.
Deliberately aiming to the left, I squeezed off a round, chipping bark from the trunk of a weeping willow my mom had planted when I was a toddler. The pop of my tiny pistol was laughable. But it got their attention. I bellowed for my neighbor to run for cover and dropped to the floor again. A fusillade shredded the remainder of the wooden railing over my head.
The throaty growl of a heavy motor echoed up and down the street. The bike’s wheels screeched. The stench of burning rubber blended with the odor of cordite, a hideous olio. I was halfway to my feet when another round of gunfire drove me flat again. But instead of the thud of bullets against brick or flying woodchips, there was a scream and the sound of breaking glass from across the street.
Did BJ’s problems with the case get his nosy and seemingly frail elderly neighbor killed?

Keep on reading. It’s a mentally healthy thing to do.

I always look forward to hearing from any of you who’d like to make contact.

New Posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

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